Reduced Sensitivity to Anesthetic Agents upon Lesioning the Mesopontine Tegmental Anesthesia Area in Rats Depends on Anesthetic Type

Anne Minert*, Mark Baron, Marshall Devor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: The brainstem mesopontine tegmental anesthesia area is a key node in circuitry responsible for anesthetic induction and maintenance. Microinjecting the γ-aminobutyric acid–mediated (GABAergic) anesthetic pentobarbital in this nucleus rapidly and reversibly induces general anesthesia, whereas lesioning it renders the animal relatively insensitive to pentobarbital administered systemically. This study investigated whether effects of lesioning the mesopontine tegmental anesthesia area generalize to other anesthetic agents. Methods: Cell-selective lesions were made using ibotenic acid, and rats were later tested for changes in the dose–response relation to etomidate, propofol, alfaxalone/alfadolone, ketamine, and medetomidine delivered intravenously using a programmable infusion pump. Anesthetic induction for each agent was tracked using five behavioral endpoints: loss of righting reflex, criterion for anesthesia (score of 11 or higher), criterion for surgical anesthesia (score of 14 or higher), antinociception (loss of pinch response), and deep surgical anesthesia (score of 16). results: As reported previously for pentobarbital, on-target mesopontine tegmental anesthesia area lesions reduced sensitivity to the GABAergic anesthetics etomidate and propofol. The dose to achieve a score of 16 increased to 147 ± 50% of baseline in control animals ± SD (P = 0.0007; 7 lesioned rats and 18 controls) and 136 ± 58% of baseline (P = 0.010; 6 lesioned rats and 21 controls), respectively. In contrast, responsiveness to the neurosteroids alfaxalone and alfadolone remained unchanged compared with baseline (94 ± 24%; P = 0.519; 6 lesioned rats and 18 controls) and with ketamine increased slightly (90 ± 11%; P = 0.039; 6 lesioned rats and 19 controls). The non-GABAergic anesthetic medetomidine did not induce criterion anesthesia even at the maximal dose tested. The dose to reach the maximal anesthesia score actually obtained was unaffected by the lesion (112 ± 8%; P = 0.063; 5 lesioned rats and 18 controls). conclusions: Inability to induce anesthesia in lesioned animals using normally effective doses of etomidate, propofol, and pentobarbital suggests that the mesopontine tegmental anesthesia area is the effective target of these, but not necessarily all, GABAergic anesthetics upon systemic administration. Cortical and spinal functions are likely suppressed by recruitment of dedicated ascending and descending pathways rather than by direct, distributed drug action. Downloaded from

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)535-550
Number of pages16
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020

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