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Am J Physiol. 1989 Dec;257(6 Pt 2):F1108-16.

Characterization of the major brain osmolytes that accumulate in salt-loaded rats.

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Renal Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


Previous studies demonstrated an accumulation of "idiogenic osmoles" in the brain with chronic salt loading. Amino acids are known to constitute a portion of these solutes, but the balance of the solutes has yet to be fully characterized. In the present study, 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and biochemical assays of rat brain were used to identify and quantify changes in organic solutes in two different animal models of hypernatremia: hypertonic salt loading and water deprivation. Five days of salt loading increased plasma sodium concentration (PNa) to 165 meq/l and 3 days of water deprivation increased PNa to 151 meq/l, compared with 141 meq/l in controls. Amino acids, methylamines, and polyols were all significantly higher in salt-loaded animals compared with controls. Specifically, higher contents of glutamine (+65%), glutamate (+27%), myo-inositol (+36%), phosphocreatine + creatine (PCr + Cr) (32%), glycerophosphorylcholine (GPC) (+75%), and choline (+114%) were observed. Sorbitol and betaine, osmolytes known to accumulate in the hypertonic inner medulla, were present in low amounts in the brain and were unchanged with salt loading. In contrast to the results with salt loading, no accumulation of brain organic solutes was detected after 3 days of water deprivation. Based on these findings, we propose that amino acids, methylamines, and polyols function as osmoregulatory solutes in the brains of salt-loaded rats in a manner similar to that observed in other biological systems, whereas 3 days of water deprivation is an insufficient stimulus for their accumulation.

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