It has been shown that propofol can induce widespread apoptosis in neonatal mouse brains followed by long-term cognitive dysfunction. However, selective brain area and cell vulnerability to propofol remains unknown. This study was aimed to dissect toxic effect of propofol on multiple brain cells, including neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and neural stem cells (NSCs). Seven-day-old mice were intraperitoneally administrated propofol or intralipid as a vehicle control for 6 hours. To identify vulnerable cells undergoing apoptosis following propofol exposure, brain sagittal sections were co-stained with antibodies against an apoptosis marker along with neuron, astrocyte, oligodendrocyte, or NSC markers using immunofluorescence staining. The results showed widespread apoptosis in propofol-treated brains (apoptotic cells: 1.55 ± 0.04% and 0.06 ± 0.01% in propofol group and intralipid-treated control group, respectively). Apoptotic cell distribution exhibits region- and cell-specific patterns. Several brain regions (e.g., cerebral cortex and hippocampus) were more vulnerable to propofol than other brain regions. Most apoptotic cells in the hippocampus were located in the cornus ammonis 1 (CA1) subfield. These apoptotic cells were only detected in neurons and not astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, or NSCs. These data demonstrate that different brain regions, subfields, and different types of neuronal cells in mice exhibit various vulnerabilities to propofol. Understanding region- and cell-specific susceptibility to propofol will help to better understand cellular contribution to developmental neurotoxicity and further develop novel therapeutic targets.
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