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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Barbiturate reduction of calcium-dependent action potentials: correlation with anesthetic action.

Calcium-dependent action potentials were recorded from mouse spinal cord neurons in primary dissociated cell culture following addition of the potassium channel blockers tetraethylammonium ion and 3-aminopyridine. The pharmacologically active barbiturates, pentobarbital and phenobarbital, but not the pharmacologically inactive barbiturate, barbituric acid, produced reversible, dose-dependent reduction of action potential duration at sedative-hypnotic and anesthetic concentrations. Pentobarbital reduced action potential duration at concentrations from 25 to 600 microM (50% reduction at 170 microM) while phenobarbital reduced action potential duration at concentrations from 100 to 5000 microM (50% reduction at 900 microM). The barbiturate concentrations which reduced calcium-dependent action potential duration in this study correlate with reduction of neurotransmitter release from other neuronal preparations and with reduction of calcium uptake by synaptosomes. The results suggest that barbiturates may produce anesthesia in part by reduction of presynaptic calcium entry and consequent reduction of neurotransmitter release in addition to postsynaptic increase of membrane chloride ion conductance. Barbiturate anticonvulsant actions are probably due to postsynaptic augmentation of GABA-mediated inhibition and depression of excitatory synaptic transmission. The major difference between anticonvulsant (phenobarbital) and anesthetic (pentobarbital) barbiturates was the dose-dependency of these actions. Phenobarbital produced postsynaptic modulation of neurotransmitter responses at low concentrations and decreased calcium-dependent action potential duration and increased chloride ion conductance at high concentrations. In contrast, pentobarbital produced all actions at low concentrations. Thus for phenobarbital there would be a large therapeutic index for anticonvulsant activity compared to anesthetic activity but for pentobarbital there would be a small therapeutic index.[1]


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