The exact molecular mechanism of inhalational anesthetics remains obscure. Since the enzyme activity of the sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+)-ATPase from skeletal muscle fibres is modified by halothane and because protein-protein interactions play an important role in the regulation of Ca(2+)-regulatory proteins, we investigated the effect of this volatile drug on the oligomerization of the fast-twitch Ca(2+)-ATPase. Using electrophoretic separation following incubation with halothane, increases in relative molecular mass were determined by immunoblotting with a monoclonal antibody to the SERCA1 isoform of the Ca(2+)-ATPase. Distinct drug-induced decreases in electrophoretic mobility indicated oligomerization of the native Ca(2+)-pump by halothane, comparable to crosslinking-mediated formation of homo-tetramers. Determination of the effect of halothane on enzyme activity suggested that halothane-mediated protein aggregation triggers a partial inhibition of Ca(2+)-pump units. Thus, halothane appears to exert its action via specific peptide binding sites and not indirectly by lipid perturbation. These findings support the protein theory of anesthetic action.
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