Involvement of Lipids in the Action of Ethanol and Other Anesthetics

  • David A. Johnson
  • Roger Cooke
  • Horace H. Loh
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 126)


While it is generally accepted that ethanol and other anesthetics act on membranes, there is much debate on whether membrane proteins or lipids are involved in their action. The purpose of this paper is to review the evidence which suggests an involvement of lipids. The evidence implicating lipids at the site of action of anesthetics will first be cited. Then the lipid compositional changes responsible for the expression of tolerance will be discussed.


Lipid Extract Benzyl Alcohol Membrane Fluidity Ethanol Tolerance Membrane Cholesterol 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Seeman, P. (1972) The membrane actions of anesthetics and tranquilizers. Pharmacol. Rev. 24, 583.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Trudell, J. R., Hubbell, W. L. & Cohen, E. N. (1973) The effect of two inhalation anesthetics on the order of spin- labeled phospholipid vesicles. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 291, 321.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Vanderkooi, J. M., Landesberg, R., Selick II H. & McDonald, G. (1977) Interaction of general anesthetics with phospholipid vesicles and biological membranes. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 464, 1.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hubbell, W. L., Metcalfe, J. C., Metcalfe, S. M. & McConnell, M. (1970) The interactions of small molecules with spin- labeled erythrocyte membranes. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 219, 415.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Paterson, S. J., Butler, K. W., Huang, P., Labelle, J., Smith, I. C. P. & Schneider, H. (1972) Biochim. Biophys. Acta 266, 597.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Jain, M. K., Wu, N. Y.-M. & Wray, L. V. (1975) Drug-induced phase changes in bilayer as possible mode of action of membrane expanding drugs. Nature 255, 494.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Metcalfe, J. C., Seeman, P. & Bergen, A. S. V. (1968) The proton relaxation of benzyl alcohol in erythrocyte membranes. Mol. Pharmacol. 4 87.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Chin, J. H. & Goldstein, D. B. (1977) Effects of low concentrations of ethanol on the fluidity of spin-labeled erythrocyte and brain membranes. Mol. Pharmacol. 13, 435.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Trudell, J. R., Payon, D. G., Chin, J. H. & Cohen, E. N. (1975) The antagonistic effect of an inhalation anesthetic and high pressure on the phase diagram of mixed dipalmitoyl- dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine bifayers. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 72, 210.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Chin, J. H. & Goldstein, D. B (1977) Drug tolerance in bio- membranes: A spin label study of the effects of ethanol. Science 196, 684.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Johnson, D. A., Lee, N. M. & Cooke, R. (1978) Adaptation to ethanol-induced fluidization of brain lipid bilayers. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, in press.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Johnson, D. A., Lee, N. M., Cooke, R. & Loh, H. H. (1978) Ethanol-induced fluidization of brain lipid bilayers: Demonstration of cross-tolerance with pentobarbital (in preparation)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Littleton, J. M. & John, G. (1977) Synaptosomal membrane lipids of mice during continuous exposure to ethanol. J. Pharm. Pharmac. 29, 579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Chin, J. H., Parsons, L. M. & Goldstein, D. B. (1978) Increased cholesterol content of erythrocyte and brain membranes in ethanol-tolerant mice. Biochim. Biophys. Acta, in press.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Johnson, D. A., Lee, N. M., Cooke, R. & Loh, H. H. (1978) Ethanol-induced fluidization of brain lipid bilayers: Role of cholesterol in expression of tolerance. Submitted to Mol. Pharmacol.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Johnson, D. A., Cooke, R. & Loh, H. H. (1978) Effect of cholesterol and acidic lipids on ethanol-induced fluidization of brain lipid bilayers (in preparation).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. Johnson
    • 1
  • Roger Cooke
    • 1
  • Horace H. Loh
    • 1
  1. 1.Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute and the Departments of Pharmacology, Biochemistry/Biophysics, and PsychiatryUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

Personalised recommendations