Determination of anesthetic molecule environments by infrared spectroscopy. II. Multiple sites for nitrous oxide in proteins, lipids, and brain tissue

Arch Biochem Biophys. 1985 Aug 1;240(2):747-56. doi: 10.1016/0003-9861(85)90083-9.


The presence of molecules of the general anesthetic nitrous oxide (N2O) in oils, esters, proteins, red cells, cream, lipid vesicles, and brain tissue upon exposure to the gas was observed by infrared spectroscopy. Analysis of the N-N-O antisymmetric stretch band reveals a distribution of N2O molecules among several sites of differing polarity in these solutions and tissues. The sensitivity of the band intensity and frequency to the number and strength of the dipoles in the solvating molecules is demonstrated by the resolution of N2O-ester and N2O-alkane interactions in acetic acid ethyl ester and oleic acid methyl ester. In all aqueous solutions and in all tissues a population of N2O molecules in water is observed. At least two sites of N2O-protein interaction are observed in purified hemoglobin A and packed red cells; multiple N2O sites may also be present in bovine serum albumin. Two sites of N2O-lipid interaction are observed in whipping cream and in an aqueous suspension of phosphatidylcholine vesicles. The sites providing the least polar immediate environment to N2O in hemoglobin, cream, and vesicles give similar band frequencies to those found in pure alkane solvents. Infrared spectra of bovine brain tissue, upon exposure to N2O, show N2O molecules present in water and in two less-polar environments. Analysis of spectra of N2O in cerebellum tissue removed from a dog under halothane-N2O anesthesia reveals, in addition to N2O in water, a single population of N2O molecules in an alkane-like environment. Infrared spectroscopy provides a unique means of probing the structure of the environment of N2O and should prove useful in correlating anesthetic potency with anesthetic environment under physiological conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Cattle
  • Dogs
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Hemoglobin A / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Nitrous Oxide / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Spectrophotometry, Infrared


  • Fatty Acids
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Proteins
  • Hemoglobin A
  • Nitrous Oxide