Brain amino acids during hyponatremia in vivo: clinical observations and experimental studies

Neurochem Res. 2004 Jan;29(1):73-81. doi: 10.1023/b:nere.0000010435.06586.e2.


Hyponatremia is a highly morbid condition, present in a wide range of human pathologies, that exposes patients to encephalopathic complication and the risk of permanent brain damage and death. Treating hyponatremia has proved to be difficult and still awaits safe management, avoiding the morbid sequelae of demyelinizing and necrotic lesions associated with the use of hypertonic solutions. During acute and chronic hyponatremia in vivo, the brain extrudes the excessive water by decreasing its content of electrolytes and organic osmolytes. At the cellular level, a similar response occurs upon cell swelling. Among the organic osmolytes involved in both responses, free amino acids play a prominent role because of the large intracellular pools often found in nerve cells. An overview of the changes in brain amino acid content during hyponatremia in vivo is presented and the contribution of these changes to the adaptive cell responses involved in volume regulation discussed. Additionally, new data are provided concerning changes in amino acid levels in different regions of the central nervous system after chronic hyponatremia. Results favor the role of taurine, glutamine, glutamate, and aspartate as the main amino acid osmolytes involved in the brain adaptive response to hyponatremia in vivo. Deeper knowledge of the adaptive overall and cellular brain mechanisms activated during hyponatremia would lead to the design of safer therapies for the hyponatremic patient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Edema / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyponatremia / metabolism*
  • Hyponatremia / physiopathology
  • Osmolar Concentration


  • Amino Acids