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To determine whether the volatile anesthetic halothane protects against light-induced photoreceptor degeneration in the rodent retina. Albino mice and rats were anesthetized with halothane and exposed to high levels of white or blue light. Nonanesthetized animals served as controls. Retinal morphology was assessed by light microscopy, and apoptosis of photoreceptor cells was verified by detection of fragmented genomic DNA and in situ staining of apoptotic nuclei (TUNEL assay). Rhodopsin regeneration after bleaching was determined by measuring rhodopsin levels in retinas of mice or rats at different time points in darkness. Halothane anesthesia reversibly inhibited metabolic rhodopsin regeneration and thus prevented rhodopsin from absorbing high numbers of photons during light exposure. Consequently, photoreceptors of mice and rats anesthetized with halothane were completely protected against degeneration induced by white light. In remarkable contrast, however, halothane anesthesia did not protect against blue-light-induced photoreceptor cell death. After the initial bleach, halothane impeded photon absorption by rhodopsin by inhibiting metabolic rhodopsin regeneration. Apparently, the rhodopsin-mediated uptake of the critical number of photons to initiate white light-induced retinal degeneration was prevented. In contrast, halothane did not protect the retina against blue light. Blue light can efficiently restore functional rhodopsin from bleaching intermediates through a process termed photoreversal of bleaching. This process does not depend on the visual cycle via the pigment epithelium but nevertheless enables rhodopsin molecules to absorb the critical number of photons required to induce retinal degeneration.


C Keller, C Grimm, A Wenzel, F Hafezi, C Remé. Protective effect of halothane anesthesia on retinal light damage: inhibition of metabolic rhodopsin regeneration. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science. 2001 Feb;42(2):476-80

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PMID: 11157886

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