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Adv Neurol. 1986;44:1011-32.

Amino acid and catecholamine markers of metabolic abnormalities in human focal epilepsy.


Studies of various parameters of amino acid and catecholamine metabolism in human cerebral cortex have provided a number of biochemical markers that appear to delineate areas of focal epileptic activity. These observations have been consolidated further by investigations of a number of experimental models of epilepsy in animals. In appraising this data, it is important to take into consideration whether the tissue samples were obtained during an actual seizure state or in an interictal period. It is also important when possible to assess the extent of astrogliosis and neuronal loss. Sites of spontaneously active epileptic spiking in the cerebral neocortex have a somewhat different amino acid profile when compared to gray matter obtained from surrounding nonspiking gyri several centimeters away. There is an elevation in glycine content, a relative diminution in taurine, and a trend towards lowered glutamic acid levels. However, the concentrations of the eight amino acids measured appear in both the foci and surround to still be within the general range for normal tissue. Measurements of key enzymes involved in the synthesis and regulation of neurotransmitters provide a complementary method of evaluating functional changes in epileptic brain as they are generally less labile than their substrates. There is a moderate increase in the activity of glutamic acid dehydrogenase, an enzyme that plays an important role in the synthesis of glutamic acid from glucose. In some patients a decrease in glutamic acid decarboxylase has also been reported: this enzyme forms gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) from glutamic acid and is thus important for inhibition in the central nervous system. Moreover, there is a striking increase in the activity of tyrosine hydroxylase, the rate-limiting enzyme responsible for catecholamine synthesis. The possibility of a focal abnormality in catecholamine metabolism is reinforced by the simultaneous finding of a relative decrease in the number of alpha-1 postsynaptic receptor sites. An important marker of energy metabolism in neural tissue, Na+,K+-ATPase activity, has also been found to be decreased in actively spiking human cerebral cortex. Data from experimental animal foci produced by topical application of convulsant agents show a consistent drop in glutamic acid tissue content. This can be matched to an efflux of glutamic acid from the cortical surface, which in turn is proportional to the electrographic activity of the spike focus. In addition, there is often also a decrease in taurine and GABA in such foci, as well as an increase in the levels of a number of neutral amino acids.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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