Background: General anesthesia induces long-lasting cognitive and learning deficits. However, the underlying mechanism remains unknown. The GluA1 subunit of AMPAR is a key molecule for learning and synaptic plasticity, which requires trafficking of GluA1-containing AMPARs into the synapse.
Methods: Adult male rats were exposed to 1.8% isoflurane for 2 h and subjected to an inhibitory avoidance task, which is a hippocampus-dependent contextual fear learning paradigm (n = 16 to 39). The in vitro extracellular field potential of hippocampal synapses between the Schaffer collateral and the CA1 was evaluated using a multielectrode recorder (n = 6 per group). GluA1 expression in the synaptoneurosome was assessed using Western blotting (n = 5 to 8). The ubiquitination level of GluA1 was evaluated using immunoprecipitation and Western blotting (n = 7 per group).
Results: Seven days after exposure to 1.8% isoflurane for 2 h (Iso1.8), the inhibitory avoidance learning (control vs. Iso1.8; 294 ± 34 vs. 138 ± 28, the mean ± SEM [%]; P = 0.002) and long-term potentiation (125.7 ± 6.1 vs. 105.7 ± 3.3; P < 0.001) were impaired. Iso1.8 also temporarily increased GluA1 in the synaptoneurosomes (100 ± 9.7 vs. 138.9 ± 8.9; P = 0.012) and reduced the GluA1 ubiquitination, a main degradation pathway of GluA1 (100 ± 8.7 vs. 71.1 ± 6.1; P = 0.014).
Conclusions: Isoflurane impairs hippocampal learning and modulates synaptic plasticity in the postanesthetic period. Increased GluA1 may reduce synaptic capacity for additional GluA1-containing AMPARs trafficking.