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Hyperammonemia induces mitochondrial dysfunction and neuronal cell death

Angelova, Plamena R; Kerbert, Annarein JC; Habtesion, Abeba; Hall, Andrew; Abramov, Andrey Y; Jalan, Rajiv; (2022) Hyperammonemia induces mitochondrial dysfunction and neuronal cell death. JHEP Reports , 4 (8) , Article 100510. 10.1016/j.jhepr.2022.100510. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND & AIMS: In liver cirrhosis, astrocytic swelling is believed to be the principal mechanism of ammonia neurotoxicity leading to hepatic encephalopathy (HE). The role of neuronal dysfunction in HE is not clear. We aimed to explore the impact of hyperammonemia on mitochondrial function in primary co-cultures of neurons and astrocytes and in acute brain slices of cirrhotic rats using live cell imaging. METHODS: To primary co-cultures of astrocytes and neurons, low concentrations (1 and 5μM) of NH4Cl were applied. In rats with bile-duct ligation (BDL)-induced cirrhosis, a model known to induce hyperammonemia and minimal HE, acute brain slices were studied. One group of BDL rats were treated twice daily with the ammonia scavenger ornithine phenylacetate (OP, 0.3g/kg). Fluorescence measurements of changes in mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm), cytosolic and mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, lipid peroxidation (LP) rates, and cell viability were performed using confocal microscopy. RESULTS: Neuronal cultures treated with NH4Cl exhibited mitochondrial dysfunction, ROS overproduction and reduced cell viability (27.8±2.3% and 41.5±3.7%, respectively) compared to untreated cultures (15.7±1.0%, both p<0.0001). BDL led to increased cerebral LP (p=0.0003) and cytosolic ROS generation (p<0.0001), which was restored by OP (both p<0.0001). Mitochondrial function was severely compromised in BDL resulting in hyperpolarization of ΔΨm with consequent overconsumption of ATP and augmentation of mitochondrial ROS production. Administration of OP restored ΔΨm. In BDL animals, neuronal loss was observed in hippocampal areas, which was partially prevented by OP. CONCLUSIONS: Our results elucidate that low-grade hyperammonemia in cirrhosis can severely impact on brain mitochondrial function. Profound neuronal injury was observed in hyperammonemic conditions, which was partially reversible by OP. This points towards a novel mechanism of HE development. LAY SUMMARY: The impact of hyperammonemia, a common finding in patients with liver cirrhosis, on brain mitochondrial function was investigated in this study. The results show that ammonia in concentrations commonly seen in patients induces severe mitochondrial dysfunction, overproduction of damaging oxygen molecules and profound injury and death of neurons in rat brain cells. These findings point towards a novel mechanism of ammonia-induced brain injury in liver failure and potential novel therapeutic targets.

Type: Article
Title: Hyperammonemia induces mitochondrial dysfunction and neuronal cell death
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jhepr.2022.100510
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhepr.2022.100510
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Keywords: Liver cirrhosis, hepatic encephalopathy, ammonia, mitochondrial function, cell death
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Clinical and Movement Neurosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Medicine > Inst for Liver and Digestive Hlth
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Medicine
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10149584
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