JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Nuclear magnetic resonance studies of energy metabolism and glutamine shunt in hepatic encephalopathy and hyperammonemia.

Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) in both acute and chronic liver failure is more likely a reversible functional disease rather than an irreversible pathological lesion of brain cells. Metabolic alterations underlie many of the mechanisms leading to HE. This paper summarizes in vivo and ex vivo (1)H-, (13)C-, and (15)N-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy data on patients and experimental models of HE. In vivo NMR spectroscopy provides a unique opportunity to study metabolic changes noninvasively in the brain in vivo, and to quantify various metabolites in localized brain areas, and ex vivo NMR permits the high-resolution measurement of metabolites and the identification of different metabolic pathways. In vivo and ex vivo (1)H-NMR investigations consistently reveal severalfold increases in brain glutamine and concomitant decreases in myo-inositol, an important osmolyte in astrocytes. An osmotic disturbance in these cells has long been suggested to be responsible for astrocyte swelling and brain edema. However, ex vivo (13)C-NMR studies have challenged the convention that glutamine accumulation is the major cause of brain edema in acute HE. They rather indicate a limited anaplerotic flux and capacity of astrocytes to detoxify ammonia by glutamine synthesis and emphasize distortions of energy and neurotransmitter metabolism. However, recent (15)N-NMR investigations have demonstrated that glutamine fluxes between neurons and astrocytes are affected by ammonia. Further NMR studies may provide novel insights into the relationship between brain edema and/or astrocyte pathology and changes in inter- and intracellular glutamine homeostasis, which may secondarily alter brain energy metabolism.

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