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Methods: A total of 20 mL venous blood was withdrawn pre- and postinduction of anaesthesia, the neutrophils isolated and maintained in culture.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.