Ammonia induces RNA oxidation in cultured astrocytes and brain in vivo


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Oxidative stress plays a major role in cerebral ammonia toxicity and the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy (HE). As shown in this study, ammonia induces a rapid RNA oxidation in cultured rat astrocytes, vital mouse brain slices, and rat brain in vivo. Ammonia-induced RNA oxidation in cultured astrocytes is reversible and sensitive to MK-801, 1,2-Bis(o-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N′,N′-tetraacetic acid, apocynin, epigallocatechin gallate, and polyphenon 60, suggesting the involvement of N−methyl−D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor activation, Ca2+, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate, and reduced form (NADPH) oxidase-dependent oxidative stress. Also, hypo-osmolarity, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), and diazepam increase RNA oxidation in cultured astrocytes, suggesting that the action of different HE-precipitating factors converges at the level of RNA oxidation. Among the oxidized RNA species, 18S-rRNA and the messenger RNA (mRNA) coding for the glutamate/aspartate transporter (GLAST) were identified. Cerebral RNA oxidation in acutely ammonia-loaded rats in vivo is reversible and predominates in neuronal soma and perivascular astrocyte processes. In neuronal dendrites, oxidized RNA colocalizes with the RNA-binding splicing protein neurooncological ventral antigen (NOVA)-2 within putative RNA transport granules, which are also found in close vicinity to postsynaptic spines. This indicates that oxidized RNA species may participate in postsynaptic protein synthesis, which is a biochemical substrate for learning and memory consolidation. Neuronal and astroglial RNA oxidation increases also in vital mouse brain slices treated with ammonia and TNF-α, respectively. Conclusion: Cerebral RNA oxidation is identified as a not yet recognized consequence of acute ammonia intoxication. RNA oxidation may affect gene expression and local protein synthesis and thereby provide another link between reactive oxygen species (ROS)/reactive nitrogen oxide species (RNOS) production and ammonia toxicity. (HEPATOLOGY 2008.)