Endogenous Benzodiazepine Receptor Ligands in Human and Animal Hepatic Encephalopathy

Marjut Olasmaa, Jeffrey D. Rothstein, Alessandro Guidotti, Richard J. Weber, Steven M. Paul, Sydney Spector, Maria L. Zeneroli, Mario Baraldi, Erminio Costa

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127 Scopus citations


Abstract: The role of endogenous benzodiazepine receptor ligands in the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy was studied in humans and in rat models of hepatic encephalopathy. Endogenous benzodiazepine ligands were extracted from rat brain and human CSF by acid treatment and purification by HPLC. Detection and partial characterization of these endogenous benzodiazepine ligands were carried out using both radioreceptor binding assays and radioimmunoassays with anti‐benzodiazepine antibodies. Four different benzodiazepine receptor ligands were identified in human and rat tissue, two of which may be diazepam and desmethyldiazepam, based on elution profiles and anti‐benzodiazepine antibody reactivity. Human CSF and serum from patients with hepatic encephalopathy contained ∼ 10 times more endogenous benzodiazepine receptor ligand than CSF from controls or nonencephalopathic patients with liver disease. The levels of brain benzodiazepine receptor ligand compounds were also increased ∼ 10‐fold in rats suffering from fulminant hepatic failure, but not in rats with portacaval shunts, a model of chronic hepatic disease. The increased concentrations of these substances could be behaviorally significant and may contribute to the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2015-2023
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1990


  • Benzodiazepine
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Diazepam binding inhibitor
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Liver
  • γ‐Aminobutyric acid


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