Isoflurane's enhancement of chloride flux through rat brain gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptors is stereoselective

Anesthesiology. 1995 Sep;83(3):611-5. doi: 10.1097/00000542-199509000-00021.


Background: Recent evidence is consistent with the view that volatile anesthetics interact directly with excitable membrane-bound channel proteins. If these agents interact directly with chiral centers in the neuronal cell membrane, then their effects should be stereoselective. Using rat brain membranes enriched in gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors, we investigated the hypothesis that the permeability response of this well-characterized central nervous system channel protein to stereoisomers of isoflurane is stereoselective.

Methods: Rat brain synaptic microvesicles were prepared by differential centrifugation. Agonist-stimulated 36Cl- flux through membrane-bound GABAA receptors was assayed in the presence of (+)- and (-)-isoflurane and compared with control conditions.

Results: Both isomers increased the potency and efficacy of GABA; however, (+)-isoflurane was significantly more potent and efficacious than the (-)-isomer. For example, the (+)-isomer (140 microM) reduced the median effective concentration of GABA from 12.7 +/- 1.0 to 5.4 +/- 0.5 microM, whereas the (-)-isomer reduced it to 9.6 +/- 1.0 microM (P < 0.001). The (+)-isomer also was 1.6 times as potent as the (-)-isomer in augmenting 5 microM GABA-gated flux (79 +/- 11 vs. 130 +/- 17 microM, respectively; P = 0.01). In addition, the (+)-isomer produced significantly greater maximal enhancement of flux (9.4 +/- 0.4 vs. 7.0 +/- 0.3 s-1; P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Isoflurane's effects on GABA-gated chloride flux were stereoselective. This result supports direct interaction with a stereoselective site, possibly the GABAA channel protein itself, rather than a nonspecific perturbation of the surrounding membrane lipid. In addition, these findings, from a functional assay using mammalian brain, agree with recent observations in invertebrate ion channels and mammalian neuronal cell cultures.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Chlorides / metabolism*
  • Isoflurane / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Permeability
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects*
  • Stereoisomerism


  • Chlorides
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Isoflurane