Generally speaking, we cannot fully understand the mechanisms of general anesthesia until the molecular mechanisms of consciousness are fully elucidated. Loss of consciousness induced by general anesthetics might involve sensation, motor activity, behavior, memory and self-consciousness. The effects of many anesthetics are not limited to humans but also extend to the animals. Similar levels of minimum anesthetic concentrations are required to induce anesthesia in animals and human, i.e., the minimum alveolar concentration (MAC). Such similarity probably reflects identical anesthetic target molecules and functional conservation based on gene conservation. Thus, to study the mechanisms of anesthetic action, various animal models that are accessible to genetic manipulation, such as nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans), fruit flies (Drosophila) and mice can be used. Genetic techniques allow for the rapid identification and characterization of genes involved in the actions of general anesthetics. In this review, I will describe the genetic mutations and putative target genes of general anesthetics.
Department of Earth and Life Sciences, Osaka Prefecture University, 1-1 Gakuen-Cho, Sakai-City, Osaka, 599-8531, Japan.