Open Access Short Report

Propofol induces MAPK/ERK cascade dependant expression of cFos and Egr-1 in rat hippocampal slices

Srivatsan Kidambi123*, Joel Yarmush1, Yevgeny Berdichevsky2, Sangeetha Kamath1, Wayne Fong1 and Joseph SchianodiCola1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anesthesiology, New York Methodist Hospital, Brooklyn, NY, USA

2 The Center for Engineering in Medicine and Surgical Services, Massachusetts General Hospital, Shriners Hospitals for Children and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

3 Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:201  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-201

Published: 17 July 2010



Propofol is a commonly used intravenous anesthetic agent, which produce rapid induction of and recovery from general anesthesia. Numerous clinical studies reported that propofol can potentially cause amnesia and memory loss in human subjects. The underlying mechanism for this memory loss is unclear but may potentially be related to the induction of memory-associated genes such as c-Fos and Egr-1 by propofol. This study explored the effects of propofol on c-Fos and Egr-1 expression in rat hippocampal slices.


Hippocampal brain slices were exposed to varying concentrations of propofol at multiple time intervals. The transcription of the immediate early genes, c-Fos and Egr-1, was quantified using quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). MAPK/ERK inhibitors were used to investigate the mechanism of action. We demonstrate that propofol induced the expression of c-Fos and Egr-1 within 30 and 60 min of exposure time. At 16.8 μM concentration, propofol induced a 110% increase in c-Fos transcription and 90% decrease in the transcription of Egr-1. However, at concentrations above 100 μM, propofol failed to induce expression of c-Fos but did completely inhibit the transcription of Egr-1. Propofol-induced c-Fos and Egr-1 transcription was abolished by inhibitors of RAS, RAF, MEK, ERK and p38-MAPK in the MAPK/ERK cascade.


Our study shows that clinically relevant concentrations of propofol induce c-Fos and down regulated Egr-1 expression via an MAPK/ERK mediated pathway. We demonstrated that propofol induces a time and dose dependant transcription of IEGs c-Fos and Egr-1 in rat hippocampal slices. We further demonstrate for the first time that propofol induced IEG expression was mediated via a MAPK/ERK dependant pathway. These novel findings provide a new avenue to investigate transcription-dependant mechanisms and suggest a parallel pathway of action with an unclear role in the activity of general anesthetics.