Tim Brunson DCH

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Protein crystallography under xenon and nitrous oxide pressure: Comparison with in vivo pharmacology

In contrast with most inhalational anesthetics, the anesthetic gases xenon (Xe) and nitrous oxide (N2O) act by blocking the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. Using X-ray crystallography, we examined the binding characteristics of these two gases on two soluble proteins as structural models: urate oxidase, which is a prototype of a variety of intracellular globular proteins, and annexin V which possesses structural and functional characteristics that allow it to be considered as a prototype for the NMDA receptor. The structure of these proteins complexed with Xe and N2O were determined. One N2O molecule or one Xe atom binds to the same main site in both proteins. A second subsite is observed for N2O in each case. The gas binding sites are always hydrophobic flexible gas cavities buried within the monomer. Comparison of the effects of Xe and N2O on urate oxidase and annexin V reveals an interesting relationship with the in vivo pharmacological effects of these gases, the ratio of the gas binding sites volume expansion and the ratio of the narcotic potency being similar. Given these data, we propose that alterations of cytosolic globular protein functions by general anesthetics would be responsible for the early stages of anesthesia such as amnesia and hypnosis, while additional alterations of ion-channel membrane receptor functions are required for deeper effects that progress to "surgical" anesthesia.

CNRS UMR 6185, Centre Cyceron.

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