Metabolic Brain Disease

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 217–234 | Cite as

Astrocytes and the entry of circulating ammonia into the brain: Effect of fluoroacetate

  • John C. Szerb
  • Isabel M. Redondo
Original Contribution


Chronic hyperammonemia is known to lead to pathological forms of astrocytes. To test the influence of these changes on the neurotoxicity of ammonia, the glial metabolic poison fluoroacetate (FA) was applied locally, through microdialysis to the hippocampal dentate gyrus. The penetration of ammonia into the brain following the i.p. injection of 7.8 mmol/kg NH4 acetate was evaluated by measuring the ammonia and glutamine content of the microdialysate. Field EPSPs (fEPSPs) evoked by perforant path stimulation were recorded 1.5 mm from the microdialysis probe. When 20 mM FA was perfused, NH4 acetate injection increased the ammonia efflux by 300% and decreased fEPSPs by 40%, but glutamine concentration remained low. With no FA in the microdialysate, NH4 acetate treatment increased the efflux of ammonia by only 60%, did not affect fEPSPs but doubled glutamine efflux. Arterial ammonia content, as measured by microdialysis in the common carotid, increased 4–5 fold following i.p. administration of NH4 acetate, while arterial glutamine was not elevated. Systemically administered FA did not affect either of these changes significantly, but slightly reduced arterial pH. These observations indicate that FA applied by microdialysis acted locally on astrocytes and therefore impaired astrocytic function contributes to the development of hepatic encephalopathy by facilitating the entry of ammonia into the brain. Inhibition of excitatory synaptic transmission by elevated brain ammonia may underlay CNS depression in hepatic encephalopathy.

Key words

Ammonia fluoroacetate microdialysis astrocytes glutamine EPSP 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • John C. Szerb
    • 1
  • Isabel M. Redondo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Physiology and Biophysics and Institute of NeuroscienceDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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