The action of volatile anesthetics and convulsants on synaptic transmission: a unified concept

J. Richter, M. Landau, S. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effects of convulsant and anesthetic fluorinated ethers on synaptic transmission were studied at the frog neuromuscular junction by intracellular recording. The resting potential, input resistance, and spike threshold of the muscle fibers were unaffected by either methoxyflurane (MF, anesthetic) or hexafluorodiethyl ether (HFE, convulsant) in the concentration range from 1 nM to 1 mM. The effects of both drugs on synaptic transmission were biphasic, the end plate potential (EPP) amplitude being enhanced by low concentrations and reduced by high concentrations of the drugs. The increase in EPP amplitude was related to an increased quantal content (m), whereas reduction of the EPP was related to a decrease in the miniature EPP amplitude, which presumably was due to reduced postsynaptic sensitivity to acetylcholine. The difference in the actions of thw two drugs was quantitative rather than qualitative, the effective concentrations of HFE being 10-10,000 times higher than those of MF for a corresponding effect. A model is proposed whereby these agents partition between the bulk lipids of the membrane and specific membrane subregions, in accordance with δ, the solubility parameter of the drug, and those of each of the holding phases. It is concluded that the fluorinated ethers act on specific sites in the membrane, probably belonging to the membrane proteins relevant to synaptic transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-559
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1977


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