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Abstract

The blood-brain-barrier plays an essential role in regulating the entrance of substances into the brain. To date, permeability of the blood-brain barrier has not been studied in models of cholestatic liver injury, although levels of substances known to enhance vascular permeability (bile acids, substance P, histamine) are elevated in cholestasis. Two rat models of cholestasis were studied: bile duct resection (5 days after surgery) and α-naphthylhisothiocyanate treatment (45 mg/kg/day for 7 days). The mean value for whole brain blood-to-brain transfer constant in bile duct resection rats was about 50% less than corresponding values in sham-operated and unoperated control rats (p ± 0.05, respectively). Reductions in blood-to-brain transfer constant of similar magnitude were found in the caudate nuclei, cortexes and hippocampi of bile duct-resected rats. Blood-to-brain transfer constant values in α-naphthylisothiocyanate-treated rats were also about 50% less in whole brain and specific brain regions than corresponding control values. A precedent for a decrease in blood-to-brain transfer constant is the dexamethasone-treated rat, in which the phenomenon has been attributed to a decrease in cerebral capillary endothelial cell membrane fluidity. We confirmed that blood-to-brain transfer constant values are reduced by about 50% in dexamethasone-treated rats. A decrease in membrane fluidity affords a rational explanation for a decrease in blood-to-brain transfer constant in cholestasis as a consequence of the dynamic equilibrium between elevated plasma levels of cholesterol in cholestasis and cell membranes exposed to the circulation. (HEPATOLOGY 1993;17:1103–1108.)