Regional potassium distribution in the brain in forensic relevant types of intoxication preliminary morphometric evaluation using a histochemical method

Neurotoxicology. 2001 Feb;22(1):99-107. doi: 10.1016/s0161-813x(00)00005-x.


A histochemical-morphometric method was used to measure potassium (K+) levels in gray and white matter of rats following sublethal intoxication with 11 different neurotoxic compounds of high forensic significance. Six rats were each given a single substance applied intraperitoneally, the same dosage being given to two animals each. The animals were subsequently killed, the brains immediately frozen, and cryosections cut. K+ levels were evaluated morphometrically. A drop in K+ levels was used as the criterion for cytotoxic edema. Application of ethanol, atropine, carbromal, carbon monoxide, morphine or triethyltin led to a rise in K+ levels in the gray matter and a simultaneous decline in the white matter. By contrast, administration of amitriptyline, glycerin, potassium cyanide, parathion or phenobarbital initiated an increase in K+ levels in both gray and white matter. A cytotoxic edema could thus be reliably excluded in these intoxications. Although the study design allows no statistical analysis, these conclusions are supported by the marked differences in K+ levels in gray and white matter induced by the different toxicants.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholic Intoxication / pathology
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / ultrastructure
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects*
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry, Physical
  • Edema / chemically induced
  • Edema / pathology
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine / methods*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / pathology*
  • Poisoning / metabolism
  • Poisoning / pathology*
  • Potassium / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Potassium