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J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 1990 Nov;10(6):866-76.

Effects of lactacidosis on glial cell volume and viability.

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  • 1Institute for Surgical Research, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, F.R.G.


Effects of severe lactacidosis were analyzed in vitro by employment of C6 glioma cells and astrocytes from primary culture. The cells were suspended in a physiological medium, which was rendered acidotic by addition of lactic acid in rising concentrations. A pH range of 7.4-4.2 was studied under maintenance of isotonicity and a normal electrolyte concentration of the medium. Cell swelling was quantified by flow cytometry using an advanced Coulter system with hydrodynamic focusing. The method was also utilized for assessment of cell viability by exclusion of the fluorescent dye propidium iodide. The volume of C6 glioma cells was found to increase if the pH was titrated to pH 6.8 or below. From this level downward, the extent of cell swelling depended on the degree of acidosis and the duration of exposure. For example, lactacidosis of pH 6.2 for 60 min led to an increase in cell size to 124.5% of normal, while pH 5.0 or 4.2 led to a cell size of 151.1 or 190.9%, respectively. A comparative analysis of the acidosis-induced cell swelling was made by using sulfuric acid. Swelling of C6 glioma at a given pH was only half of what was found when using lactic acid. This indicates specific swelling-inducing properties of lactic acid, while cell viability was not differently affected by both acids. Of the C6 glioma cells, 89.1% were viable under control conditions at pH 7.4. The viability remained unchanged down to pH 6.2. At pH 5.6, viability remained normal for 30 min, but it decreased to 73.4% after 60 min. Further lowering of pH to 5.0 or 4.6 respectively, decreased the number of viable cells to 47.8 or 40.3%. At pH 4.2 only 21.1% of the cells were surviving 1 h of lactacidosis. Cell swelling from lactacidosis could be largely inhibited by replacement of Na+ and bicarbonate ions in the medium by choline chloride and N-2-hydroxyethylpiperazine-N'-2-ethanesulfonic acid buffer, suggesting an involvement of the Na+/H+ and Cl-/HCO3- antiporters in the swelling process. Omission of Na+ and bicarbonate was, however, associated with reduced viability of the glial cells in acidosis. The swelling response of astrocytes obtained from primary culture was similar to that of C6 glioma. Lactic acid was also more effective in inducing cell swelling than sulfuric acid at the same level of acidosis. In astrocytes, viability at, e.g., pH 5.6 appeared to be more affected by lactic than by sulfuric acid.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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