Background: It is well documented that several general anesthetics, including propofol, potentiate glycine receptor function. Furthermore, glycine receptors exist throughout the central nervous system, including areas of the brain thought to be involved in sleep. However, the role of glycine receptors in anesthetic-induced hypnosis has not been determined.
Methods: Experiments were conducted in rats where the loss of righting reflex (LORR) was used as a marker of the hypnotic state. Propofol-induced LORR was examined in the presence and absence of strychnine (a glycine receptor antagonist), GABAzine (a gamma-aminobutyric acid A receptor antagonist), as well as ketamine (an antagonist of N-methyl-D-aspartic acid subtype of glutamate receptors). Furthermore, the effects of propofol on the currents elicited by glycine and gamma-aminobutyric acid were analyzed in neurons isolated from the posterior hypothalamus of rats. The effects of strychnine and GABAzine on propofol-induced currents were also evaluated.
Results: Strychnine and GABAzine dose-dependently reduced the percentage of rats exhibiting LORR induced by propofol. Furthermore, strychnine significantly increased the onset time and reduced the duration of LORR induced by propofol. In contrast, strychnine did not affect the LORR induced by ketamine. In addition, propofol markedly increased the currents elicited by glycine and GABA of hypothalamic neurons. Conversely, strychnine and GABAzine both profoundly attenuated the current induced by propofol.
Conclusion: Strychnine, the glycine receptor antagonist, dose-dependently reduced propofol-induced LORR in rats and propofol-induced current of rat hypothalamic neurons. These results suggest that neuronal glycine receptors partially contribute to propofol-induced hypnosis.