Background

Cholinergic drugs are known to modulate general anesthesia, but anesthesia responses in acetylcholine-deficient mice have not been studied. It was hypothesized that mice with genetic deficiency of forebrain acetylcholine show increased anesthetic sensitivity to isoflurane and ketamine and decreased gamma-frequency brain activity.

Methods

Male adult mice with heterozygous knockdown of vesicular acetylcholine transporter in the brain or homozygous knockout of the transporter in the basal forebrain were compared with wild-type mice. Hippocampal and frontal cortical electrographic activity and righting reflex were studied in response to isoflurane and ketamine doses.

Results

The loss-of-righting-reflex dose for isoflurane was lower in knockout (mean ± SD, 0.76 ± 0.08%, n = 18, P = 0.005) but not knockdown (0.78 ± 0.07%, n = 24, P = 0.021), as compared to wild-type mice (0.83 ± 0.07%, n = 23), using a significance criterion of P = 0.017 for three planned comparisons. Loss-of-righting-reflex dose for ketamine was lower in knockout (144 ± 39 mg/kg, n = 14, P = 0.006) but not knockdown (162 ± 32 mg/kg, n = 20, P = 0.602) as compared to wild-type mice (168 ± 24 mg/kg, n = 21). Hippocampal high-gamma (63 to 100 Hz) power after isoflurane was significantly lower in knockout and knockdown mice compared to wild-type mice (isoflurane-dose and mouse-group interaction effect, F[8,56] = 2.87, P = 0.010; n = 5 to 6 mice per group). Hippocampal high-gamma power after ketamine was significantly lower in both knockout and knockdown mice when compared to wild-type mice (interaction effect F[2,13] = 6.06, P = 0.014). The change in frontal cortical gamma power with isoflurane or ketamine was not statistically different among knockout, knockdown, and wild-type mice.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that forebrain cholinergic neurons modulate behavioral sensitivity and hippocampal gamma activity during isoflurane and ketamine anesthesia.

Editor’s Perspective
What We Already Know about This Topic
  • Acetylcholine plays a major role in arousal, and pharmacologic interventions that raise the concentrations of this neurotransmitter reduce anesthetic potency

  • Forebrain cholinergic neurons are a major source of acetylcholine, but their role in the modulation of anesthetic sensitivity is incompletely understood

What This Article Tells Us That Is New
  • In genetically modified mice lacking the vesicular acetylcholine transporter in the forebrain, lower doses of isoflurane and ketamine were necessary to induce the loss of the righting reflex, a surrogate for loss of consciousness, when compared to wild-type counterparts

  • Hippocampal gamma power was lower in genetically modified mice lacking forebrain acetylcholine than in the wild-type mice during both isoflurane and ketamine anesthesia

  • These observations suggest that forebrain cholinergic neurons modulate anesthetic sensitivity during isoflurane and ketamine anesthesia

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