Altered anesthetic sensitivity of mice lacking Ndufs4, a subunit of mitochondrial complex I

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42904. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042904. Epub 2012 Aug 17.


Anesthetics are in routine use, yet the mechanisms underlying their function are incompletely understood. Studies in vitro demonstrate that both GABA(A) and NMDA receptors are modulated by anesthetics, but whole animal models have not supported the role of these receptors as sole effectors of general anesthesia. Findings in C. elegans and in children reveal that defects in mitochondrial complex I can cause hypersensitivity to volatile anesthetics. Here, we tested a knockout (KO) mouse with reduced complex I function due to inactivation of the Ndufs4 gene, which encodes one of the subunits of complex I. We tested these KO mice with two volatile and two non-volatile anesthetics. KO and wild-type (WT) mice were anesthetized with isoflurane, halothane, propofol or ketamine at post-natal (PN) days 23 to 27, and tested for loss of response to tail clamp (isoflurane and halothane) or loss of righting reflex (propofol and ketamine). KO mice were 2.5 - to 3-fold more sensitive to isoflurane and halothane than WT mice. KO mice were 2-fold more sensitive to propofol but resistant to ketamine. These changes in anesthetic sensitivity are the largest recorded in a mammal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, General / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Electron Transport Complex I / deficiency*
  • Halothane / pharmacology
  • Isoflurane / pharmacology
  • Ketamine / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Pain Measurement
  • Propofol / pharmacology
  • Reflex, Righting / drug effects


  • Anesthetics, General
  • Ndufs4 protein, mouse
  • Ketamine
  • Isoflurane
  • Electron Transport Complex I
  • Halothane
  • Propofol