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Life Sci. 1985 Mar 18;36(11):1051-8.

Urea-induced myoclonus: medullary glycine antagonism as mechanism of action.


Stimulus sensitive myoclonus is a prominent symptom of uremia in both man and animals. Intravenous injection of urea into cats had been previously reported to produce spike and sharp wave electrical discharges in the medullary reticular formation which correlated with the myoclonic movements. In the present investigations, intraperitoneal injections of 2 g/kg urea every 15 minutes for 4 injections produced myoclonus in rats accompanied by brain urea concentrations of 6.8 X 10(-2)M, which is sevenfold higher than normal. 10(-2) and 10(-1) M urea significantly reduced 3H-strychnine binding to rat medulla membranes by 30% and 43% respectively. Urea inhibition of 3H-strychnine binding was reversible and binding kinetics revealed that 10(-1)M urea decreased Bmax by 65% with no effect on the affinity. Brain glycine levels did not change after urea injections and urea had no effect on synaptosomal uptake of 3H-glycine. Urea did not alter 3H-GABA, 3H-glutamate and 3H-QNB receptor binding but decreased 3H-diazepam receptor binding in the medulla. Mannitol also reduced 3H-diazepam binding but had no effect on 3H-strychnine binding. Stereotaxic injection of the glycine receptor antagonist, strychnine, into the rat medullary reticular formation produced myoclonus, whereas Ro 15-1788, a benzodiazepine antagonist, had no effect. Urea may produce myoclonus by blockade of glycine receptors in the medullary reticular formation.

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