Prenatal propofol exposure downregulates NMDA receptor expression and causes cognitive and emotional disorders in rats.


Department of Anesthesiology, Shenzhen Maternity and Child Healthcare Hospital, Southern Medical University, Shenzhen 518028, Guangdong, China. Electronic address: [Email]


The impacts of prenatal propofol on cognition and emotion of offspring remain elusive. In the present study, pregnant rats in the second trimester were anesthetized with propofol. Neuronal apoptosis and proliferation was determined in fetuses and postnatal rats by detecting caspase-3 and BrdU expression. The offspring were subjected to several behavior tests. Then the pyramidal neurons in hippocampus and the expression of NR1, NR2A, and NR2B subunits of NMDA receptor and PSD-95 in frontal cortex were examined. Propofol exposure significantly increased the number of caspase-3+ cells in lateral ganglionic eminence and hippocampus compared with control group (P < 0.001). The number of BrdU+ cells in the subventricular zone (SVZ) and dentate gyrus (DG) was also reduced in propofol group (P < 0.001). In propofol group, the swimming distance and time in the quadrant were shorter,but longer out of the quadrant. The number of escapes was less than those of the control group. Prenatal propofol exposure also decreased the sucrose preference, reduced the numbers of grooming, crossing, and rearing of the pups, and increased the fecal particle numbers and immobility time (P < 0.05). There were fewer and shorter dendritic branches of pyramidal neurons in the CA1 and CA3 of offspring. The expression of NR1, NR2A, NR2B, and PSD-95 in the frontal cortex was downregulated by propofol exposure (P < 0.001). These data suggested that prenatal propofol exposure impairs neuronal development, which may be associated with depression- and anxiety-like behaviors and cognitive disorders in offspring.


Cognitive function,Depression,Development,Propofol,