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J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 1988 Jun;8(3):375-84.

Pathogenesis of substantia nigra lesions following hyperglycemic ischemia: changes in energy metabolites, cerebral blood flow, and morphology of pars reticulata in a rat model of ischemia.

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Laboratory for Experimental Brain Research, Lund University Hospital, University of Lund, Sweden.


A spectacular spongiotic lesion, symmetrical in distribution and restricted to the pars reticulata of the substantia nigra (SNPR) has recently been described in hyperglycemic rats surviving 1-18 h after a brief period of transient ischemia. The purpose of this study was to clarify the pathogenesis of the lesion. In order to study whether the lesion was due to changes occurring during ischemia, local cerebral blood flow (l-CBF) and energy metabolites were measured in the substantia nigra (SN) and in other brain areas. Furthermore, brains were examined by light and electron microscopy immediately after ischemia and in the early recirculation period. Autoradiographic CBF measurements showed ischemia flow levels in the SN of 30-40% of control, similar in normo- and hyperglycemic rats. Thus, although ischemic, this structure had a considerable amount of residual flow. There was also a corresponding partial preservation of the adenylate energy charge. However, lactate levels were high, and in hyperglycemic subjects they rose to values previously described during status epilepticus (about 25 mumol/g). In hyperglycemic animals, neuronal alterations were consistently present in SNPR by the end of the 10-min period of ischemia. They included clumping of nuclear chromatin and subplasmalemmal clearing of the perikaryon. Some mitochondrial swelling was present in neuronal perikarya and in dendrites. The normal alignment of microtubules in the dendrites was disturbed, but there was no or only slight swelling of the dendrites. Aggregation of synaptic vesicles was a conspicuous finding in axonal terminals, which were also slightly swollen. Otherwise, the axons appeared largely spared. Microvessels looked quite intact. Similar cellular changes were observed in the early recovery period. Dendrites, however, started to swell, and their expansion finally caused the spongiotic appearance of the pars reticulata. The appearance of the dendritic lesions is strongly suggestive of transmitter-mediated ("excitotoxic") damage. However, it seems likely that the marked acidosis is injurious as well. We tentatively conclude that both mechanisms interact to give the final lesion. The results, and those previously obtained in epileptic seizures, suggest that mitochondria of SN neurons and neuronal processes are particularly prone to damage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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