It is today generally accepted that anesthetics act by binding directly to sensitive target proteins. For certain intravenous anesthetics, such as propofol, barbiturates, and etomidate, the major target for anesthetic effect has been identified as the gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABA(A)) receptor, with particular subunits playing a crucial role. Etomidate, an intravenous imidazole general anesthetic, is thought to produce anesthesia by modulating or activating ionotropic Cl(-)-permeable GABA(A) receptors. For the less potent steroid anesthetic agents the picture is less clear, although a relatively small number of targets have been identified as being the most likely candidates. In this review, we summarize the most relevant clinical and experimental pharmacological properties of these intravenous anesthetics, the molecular targets mediating other endpoints of the anesthetic state in vivo, and the work that led to the identification of the GABA(A) receptor as the key target for etomidate and aminosteroids.
- Anesthetics, Intravenous/adverse effects
- Central Nervous System/drug effects
- Etomidate/adverse effects
- Pregnanediones/adverse effects
- Pregnanolone/adverse effects
- Receptors, GABA-A/drug effects