branched-chain amino acids
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract A decreased ratio of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) to aromatic amino acids (AAA) is considered an important pathogenetic factor in hepatic encephalopathy (HE). A relationship between the deranged BCAA/AAA ratio and dopaminergic dysfunction through the formation of “false” neurotransmitters has been postulated. The intermediate lobe of the pituitary is more pronounced in dogs than in humans and because it is primarily under dopaminergic inhibitory influence, it may serve as an indicator of alterations in dopaminergic neurotransmission. We investigated the effects of a diet with a high BCAA/AAA ratio (HR) and an isonitrogenous diet with a low BCAA/AAA ratio (LR) on several physical and biochemical parameters including pituitary function in dogs with portocaval shunts and 40% hepatectomy and in sham-operated pair-fed controls, in a double-blind, randomized cross-over study. Portocaval-shunted dogs had hyperammonemia (33±3 μM (mean ± SEM) before and 214±21 after surgery)) and signs of HE. Their BCAA/AAA ratio in plasma and CSF decreased from 4.3±0.3 and 2.3±0.3 before surgery to 1.3±0.1 and 0.5±0.1 after surgery, respectively. These parameters remained unaltered in the control dogs. The consumption of the LR diet was significantly higher than consumption of the HR diet. In the portocaval-shunted dogs, plasma ammonia concentration was higher on the HR diet than on the LR diet (344±52 v 246±45) and the HE grade was worse. The BCAA /AAA ratio remained abnormal in HE dogs during the feeding of both diets. The basal and haloperidol-stimulated release of α-melanotropin and cortisol in plasma were not significantly different between or within groups during any period. In contrast, urinary cortisol excretion was increased in the HE dogs after surgery (urinary cortisol:creatinine ratio (×10−6) 8.5±1.4 before and 30.4±8.9 after surgery). The basal plasma concentration of adrenocorticotropin in HE dogs was decreased after surgery (68.3±10.2 ng/L before and 40.8±4.4 after surgery). This indicates a non-pituitary-dependent hyperresponsiveness of the adrenals. We conclude from these results that chronic HE in dogs is not associated with an abnormal dopaminergic neurotransmission at least at the level of the pituitary, and that it is not the content of the dietary neutral amino acids but rather the total protein intake that may have a beneficial effect on HE.
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