What the clinician can learn from MR glutamine/glutamate assays

NMR Biomed. 1991 Apr;4(2):103-8. doi: 10.1002/nbm.1940040213.


At present in vivo NMR spectroscopic studies of brain glutamate and glutamine concentrations relative to encephalopathy have mainly been performed in hepatic encephalopathy (HE). In vivo proton NMR studies were performed in rats with hyperammonemia and acute HE due to acute liver ischemia as well as in rats with hyperammonemia due to either repeated urease i.p. injection or i.p. administration of methionine sulfoximine, a well known inhibitor of glutamine synthetase. In man, in vivo proton NMR is described in patients with chronic liver disease: cirrhosis of different etiology and associated with different degrees of HE. In the experimental models proton NMR spectroscopy of the cerebral cortex revealed an increase in glutamine concentration, a decrease in glutamate concentration and a decrease in phosphocholine compounds. In humans no clear distinction between cerebral cortex glutamate and glutamine concentration could be made by in vivo 1H NMR spectroscopy. However, the combined glutamate/glutamine peak increased in a way compatible with an increased cerebral cortex glutamine concentration during chronic HE. In the cirrhotic patients too a decrease in cerebral cortex phosphocholine compounds was observed, the explanation of which is unclear. Both the experimental work and the clinical observations support the hypothesis that impairment of the glutamate/glutamine cycle between astrocytes and neurons plays a role in the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Glutamates / metabolism*
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glutamine / metabolism*
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Protons
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Glutamates
  • Protons
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic Acid