Metabolic Brain Disease

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 241–249 | Cite as

N-Acetylcysteine attenuates cerebral complications of non-acetaminophen-induced acute liver failure in mice: antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms

  • Chantal Bémeur
  • Javier Vaquero
  • Paul Desjardins
  • Roger F. Butterworth
Original Paper


N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an effective antidote to treat acetaminophen (APAP)-induced acute liver failure (ALF). NAC is hepatoprotective and prevents the neurological complications of ALF, namely hepatic encephalopathy and brain edema. The protective effect of NAC and its mechanisms of action in ALF due to other toxins, however, are still controversial. In the present study, we investigated the effects of NAC in relation to liver pathology, hepatic and cerebral glutathione, plasma ammonia concentrations, progression of encephalopathy, cerebral edema, and plasma proinflammatory cytokines in mice with ALF resulting from azoxymethane (AOM) hepatotoxicity, a well characterized model of toxic liver injury. Male C57BL/6 mice were treated with AOM (100 µg/g; i.p.) or saline and sacrificed at coma stage of encephalopathy in parallel with AOM mice administered NAC (1.2 g/kg; i.p.). AOM administration led to hepatic damage, significant increase in plasma transaminase activity, decreased hepatic glutathione levels and brain GSH/GSSG ratios as well as increased expression of plasma proinflammatory cytokines. NAC treatment of AOM mice led to reduced hepatic damage and improvement in neurological function, normalization of brain and hepatic glutathione levels as well as selective attenuation in expression of plasma proinflammatory cytokines. These findings demonstrate that the beneficial effects of NAC in experimental non-APAP-induced ALF involves both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms.


Azoxymethane Acute liver failure N-acetylcysteine Hepatic encephalopathy Inflammation Brain edema Ammonia Glutathione 



acute liver failure






blood-brain barrier




interferon gamma




tumor necrosis factor alpha


systemic inflammatory response syndrome


alanine aminotransferase



This study was supported by a grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. C.B. is a recipient of a fellowship from the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver (CASL)/Astellas Pharma Canada. J.V. was supported by a fellowship from CASL/Schering Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chantal Bémeur
    • 1
  • Javier Vaquero
    • 1
  • Paul Desjardins
    • 1
  • Roger F. Butterworth
    • 1
  1. 1.Neuroscience Research Unit, Hôpital Saint-Luc (CHUM)University of MontrealMontrealCanada

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