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Metab Brain Dis. 1993 Dec;8(4):207-15.

Region-selective reductions in activities of glutamine synthetase in rat brain following portacaval anastomosis.

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  • 1Neuroscience Research Unit, Hopital Saint-Luc (University of Montreal), Quebec, Canada.


Portacaval anastomosis in the rat results in liver atrophy, sustained hyperammonemia and mild encephalopathy. Previous studies have demonstrated region-selective alterations of glutamine and other ammonia-related amino acids in brain following portacaval anastomosis. Ammonia removal by brain relies on glutamine synthesis and the enzyme responsible, glutamine synthetase, has an almost exclusively astrocytic localization. Glutamine synthetase activities were measured using a radioenzymatic assay in homogenates of seven brain regions of rats four weeks after end-to-side portacaval anastomosis. Enzyme activities were significantly reduced in hippocampus (by 25%, p < 0.01), in cerebellum (by 29%, p < 0.01) and in cerebral cortex (by 14%, p < 0.05). Enzyme activities in other brain regions were within normal limits. Region-selective reductions of glutamine synthetase following portacaval anastomosis could result in disruption of neuron-glial metabolic interactions and in a deficit of glutamatergic synaptic regulation. Similar mechanisms could be implicated in the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy accompanying chronic liver disease in humans.

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