European Journal of Anaesthesiology

Original Article

Effect of sevoflurane on human neutrophil apoptosis

R. Tyther a1, J. O'Brien a1, J. Wang a2, H. P. Redmond a2 and G. Shorten a1c1
a1 Cork University Hospital, Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, Cork, Ireland
a2 Cork University Hospital, Department of Surgery, Cork, and University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

Article author query
tyther r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
o'brien j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
wang j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
redmond hp   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
shorten g   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background and objective: Both chronic occupational exposure to volatile anaesthetic agents and acute in vitro exposure of neutrophils to isoflurane have been shown to inhibit the rate of apoptosis of human neutrophils. It is possible that inhibition of neutrophil apoptosis arises through delaying mitochondrial membrane potential collapse. We assessed mitochondrial depolarization and apoptosis in unexposed neutrophils and neutrophils exposed to sevoflurane in vivo.

Methods: A total of 20 mL venous blood was withdrawn pre- and postinduction of anaesthesia, the neutrophils isolated and maintained in culture. At 1, 12 and 24 h in culture, the percentage of neutrophil apoptosis was assessed by dual staining with annexin V-FITC and propidium iodide. Mitochondrial depolarization was measured using the dual emission styryl dye JC-1.

Results: Apoptosis was significantly inhibited in neutrophils exposed to sevoflurane in vivo at 24 (exposed: 38 (12)% versus control: 28 (11)%, P = 0.001), but not at 1 or 12 h, in culture. Mitochondrial depolarization was not delayed in neutrophils exposed to sevoflurane.

Conclusions: The most important findings are that sevoflurane inhibits neutrophil apoptosis in vivo and that inhibition is not mediated primarily by an effect on mitochondrial depolarization.

(Accepted March 2002)

Key Words: ANAESTHESIA GENERAL, anaesthesia, inhalation, sevoflurane; BLOOD CELLS, leukocytes, granulocytes, neutrophils; CELL DEATH, apoptosis; PATHOLOGICAL PROCESSES, inflammation.

c1 Correspondence to: George Shorten, Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, Cork University Hospital, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland. E-mail:; Tel: +353 21 4546400 ext. 2566; Fax: +353 21 4546434