Xu, TL (reprint author), Med Coll Soochow Univ, Dept Neurobiol, 199 Ren Ai Rd,Suzhou Ind Pk, Suzhou 215123, Peoples R China,email@example.com
General anesthetics thiopental and pentobarbital possess very similar chemical structures whereas their clinical potency is quite different. The underlying molecular mechanism is not fully understood. This study was designed to assess the differential effects of thiopental and pentobarbital on GABA(A) receptors of mechanically dissociated rat spinal dorsal horn neurons by using whole-cell patch-clamp technique. Pentobarbital, at a concentration of 30 mu M, which markedly enhanced sub-saturated GABA-induced current (I (GABA)), had no effect on thiopental-induced maximal current. Similarly, the pentobarbital-induced maximal current was also not affected by 30 mu M thiopental. Moreover, a linear summation of thiopental-induced maximal current and pentobarbital-induced sub-maximal current was observed. In addition, pentobarbital failed to further enhance I (GABA) in the presence of thiopental at a concentration with maximal modulatory effects on I (GABA), and vice versa. Our results thus suggest that thiopental and pentobarbital might exert the GABA mimetic effects independently, but share a common mechanism to produce the GABA modulatory effects.