1. General anesthetics have been shown to inhibit synaptic transmission in multiple areas of the central and peripheral nervous systems. 2. The mechanism of inhibition is not well understood. 3. It has become clear that general anesthetics modulate the function of members of the ligand gated ion channel superfamily, including receptors for GABA(A), glycine (Harrison et al., Mol. Pharmacol. 44(3), 1993, 628-632) and 5HT3 (Zhou and Lovinger, J. Pharmacol. Exp. Therap. 278(2), 1996, 732-740). 4. Studies of the activity of general anesthetics on recombinant neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors have added this receptor family to those potently inhibited by general anesthetics (Flood et al., Anesthesiology 86(4), 1997, 859-865; Violet et al., Anesthesiology 86(4), 1997, 866-874). 5. Studies of neuronal nicotinic receptors in native neurons suggest that the inhibition of these receptors by general anesthetics at low clinical concentrations may be biologically significant (Nicoll, Science 199(4327), 1978, 451-452). 6. Recent work on neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the central nervous system suggests that their primary role may be to modulate synaptic transmission (Role and Berg, Neuron 16(6), 1996, 1077-1085). 7. Thus, inhibition of nicotinic modulation in the central nervous system may result in inhibition of synaptic transmission and some of the behavioral consequences of general anesthesia.
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