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J Neurochem. 1990 Dec;55(6):2015-23.

Endogenous benzodiazepine receptor ligands in human and animal hepatic encephalopathy.

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FIDIA-Georgetown Institute for the Neurosciences, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, D.C. 20007.


The role of endogenous benzodiazepine receptor ligands in the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy was studied in humans and in rat models of hepatic encephalopathy. Endogenous benzodiazepine ligands were extracted from rat brain and human CSF by acid treatment and purification by HPLC. Detection and partial characterization of these endogenous benzodiazepine ligands were carried out using both radioreceptor binding assays and radioimmunoassays with anti-benzodiazepine antibodies. Four different benzodiazepine receptor ligands were identified in human and rat tissue, two of which may be diazepam and desmethyldiazepam, based on elution profiles and anti-benzo-diazepine antibody reactivity. Human CSF and serum from patients with hepatic encephalopathy contained approximately 10 times more endogenous benzodiazepine receptor ligand than CSF from controls or nonencephalopathic patients with liver disease. The levels of brain benzodiazepine receptor ligand compounds were also increased approximately 10-fold in rats suffering from fulminant hepatic failure, but not in rats with portacaval shunts, a model of chronic hepatic disease. The increased concentrations of these substances could be behaviorally significant and may contribute to the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy.

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