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Neurochem Int. 2004 Nov;45(6):947-53.

Alterations in soluble guanylate cyclase content and modulation by nitric oxide in liver disease.

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  • 1Laboratory of Neurobiology, Fundación Valenciana de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Amadeo de Saboya 4, 46010 Valencia, Spain.


Hyperammonemia is the main responsible for the neurological alterations in hepatic encephalopathy in patients with liver failure. We studied the function of the glutamate-nitric oxide (NO)-cGMP pathway in brain in animal models of hyperammonemia and liver failure and in patients died with liver cirrhosis. Activation of glutamate receptors increases intracellular calcium that binds to calmodulin and activates neuronal nitric oxide synthase, increasing nitric oxide, which activates soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC), increasing cGMP. This glutamate-NO-cGMP pathway modulates cerebral processes such as circadian rhythms, the sleep-waking cycle, and some forms of learning and memory. These processes are impaired in patients with hepatic encephalopathy. Activation of sGC by NO is significantly increased in cerebral cortex and significantly reduced in cerebellum from cirrhotic patients died in hepatic coma. Portacaval anastomosis in rats, an animal model of liver failure, reproduces the effects of liver failure on modulation of sGC by NO both in cerebral cortex and cerebellum. In vivo brain microdialisis studies showed that sGC activation by NO is also reduced in vivo in cerebellum in hyperammonemic rats with or without liver failure. The content of alpha but not beta subunits of sGC are increased both in frontal cortex and cerebellum from patients died due to liver disease and from rats with portacaval anastomosis. We assessed whether determination of activation of sGC by NO-generating agent SNAP in lymphocytes could serve as a peripheral marker for the impairment of sGC activation by NO in brain. Chronic hyperammonemia and liver failure also alter sGC activation by NO in lymphocytes from rats or patients. These findings show that the content and modulation by NO of sGC are strongly altered in brain of patients with liver disease. These alterations could be responsible for some of the neurological alterations in hepatic encephalopathy such as sleep disturbances and cognitive impairment.

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