Region-Selective Decreases in Densities of [3H]Tryptamine Binding Sites in Autopsied Brain Tissue from Cirrhotic Patients with Hepatic Encephalopathy


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. R. F. Butterworth at Neuroscience Research Unit, André-Viallet Clinical Research Center, Hôpital St.-Luc (University of Montreal), Montréal, Québec, Canada H2X 3J4.


Abstract: The distribution of [3H]tryptamine binding sites, in autopsied brain tissue from cirrhotic patients with hepatic encephalopathy (HE) and an equal number of age-matched control subjects free from hepatic, neurological, or psychiatric disorder, was investigated. Scatchard analysis demonstrated a heterogeneous distribution for this binding site, with the highest density being observed in hippocampus ≫ frontal cortex = caudate nucleus > temporal cortex = cerebellum. When comparing [3H]-tryptamine binding site densities in control brain tissue with that in brain tissue from patients with HE, significant decreases in densities were observed in the frontal cortex (by 56%, p < 0.001), hippocampus (by 43%, p < 0.001), and caudate nucleus (by 41%, p < 0.01) of the HE group. Binding site affinities were within normal limits. The findings of decreased densities of [3H]tryptamine binding sites taken in conjunction with previous reports of increased CSF and brain tryptamine concentrations in HE suggest a pathogenic role for this neuroactive amine in HE resulting from chronic liver failure.