Drugs that block N-methyl-d-aspartate glutamate receptors or that promote gamma-aminobutyric acid type A inhibition trigger neuroapoptosis in the developing rodent brain. Propofol reportedly interacts with both gamma-aminobutyric acid type A and N-methyl-d-aspartate glutamate receptors, but has not been adequately evaluated for its ability to induce developmental neuroapoptosis. Here we determined that the intraperitoneal (i.p.) dose of propofol required to induce a surgical plane of anesthesia in the infant mouse is 200 mg/kg. We then administered graduated doses of propofol (25-300 mg/kg i.p.) and found that doses >or=50 mg/kg induce a significant neuroapoptosis response. We conclude that propofol induces neuroapoptosis at 1/4 the dose required for surgical anesthesia.