Molecular and cellular mechanisms of general anaesthesia

Nature. 1994 Feb 17;367(6464):607-14. doi: 10.1038/367607a0.


General anaesthetics are much more selective than is usually appreciated and may act by binding to only a small number of targets in the central nervous system. At surgical concentrations their principal effects are on ligand-gated (rather than voltage-gated) ion channels, with potentiation of postsynaptic inhibitory channel activity best fitting the pharmacological profile observed in general anaesthesia. Although the role of second messengers remains uncertain, it is now clear that anaesthetics act directly on proteins rather than on lipids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, General*
  • Anesthetics / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology
  • Ion Channels / drug effects*
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / drug effects
  • Second Messenger Systems / drug effects


  • Anesthetics
  • Ion Channels
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter