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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Jul;87(14):5263-7.

Brain concentrations of benzodiazepines are elevated in an animal model of hepatic encephalopathy.

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Laboratory of Neuroscience, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Brain extracts from rats with hepatic encephalopathy due to thioacetamide-induced fulminant hepatic failure contained 4- to 6-fold higher concentrations of substances that inhibit radioligand binding to benzodiazepine receptors than corresponding control rat extracts. Both isocratic and gradient-elution HPLC indicated that this inhibitory activity was localized in 3-8 peaks with retention times corresponding to deschlorodiazepam, deschlorolorazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, diazepam, and N-desmethyldiazepam. The presence of diazepam and N-desmethyldiazepam was confirmed by mass spectroscopy. Both mass spectroscopic and radiometric techniques indicated that the concentrations of N-desmethyldiazepam and diazepam in brain extracts from encephalopathic rats were 2-9 and 5-7 times higher, respectively, than in control brain extracts. While benzodiazepines have been identified previously in mammalian and plant tissues, this report demonstrates that concentrations of these substances are increased in a pathophysiological condition. These findings provide a rational basis for the use of benzodiazepine receptor antagonists in the management of hepatic encephalopathy in humans.

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