Effect of general anesthetics on the properties of lipid membranes of various compositions

György Hantal, Balázs Fábián, Marcello Sega, Balázs Jójárt, Pál Jedlovszky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Computer simulations of four lipid membranes of different compositions, namely neat DPPC and PSM, and equimolar DPPC-cholesterol and PSM-cholesterol mixtures, are performed in the presence and absence of the general anesthetics diethylether and sevoflurane both at 1 and 600 bar. The results are analyzed in order to identify membrane properties that are potentially related to the molecular mechanism of anesthesia, namely that change in the same way in any membrane with any anesthetics, and change oppositely with increasing pressure. We find that the lateral lipid density satisfies both criteria: it is decreased by anesthetics and increased by pressure. This anesthetic-induced swelling is attributed to only those anesthetic molecules that are located close to the boundary of the apolar phase. This lateral expansion is found to lead to increased lateral mobility of the lipids, an effect often thought to be related to general anesthesia; to an increased fraction of the free volume around the outer preferred position of anesthetics; and to the decrease of the lateral pressure in the nearby range of the ester and amide groups, a region into which anesthetic molecules already cannot penetrate. All these changes are reverted by the increase of pressure. Another important finding of this study is that cholesterol has an opposite effect on the membrane properties than anesthetics, and, correspondingly, these changes are less marked in the presence of cholesterol. Therefore, changes in the membrane that can lead to general anesthesia are expected to occur in the membrane domains of low cholesterol content.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-609
Number of pages16
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Cholesterol
  • Computer simulation
  • General anesthetics
  • Lipid membranes
  • Molecular mechanism of anesthesia
  • Pressure reversal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of general anesthetics on the properties of lipid membranes of various compositions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this