Chronic liver disease (CLD) leads to a spectrum of neuropsychiatric disorders named hepatic encephalopathy (HE). Even though brain energy metabolism is believed to be altered in chronic HE, few studies have explored energy metabolism in CLD-induced HE, and their findings were inconsistent. The aim of this study was to characterize for the first time in vivo and longitudinally brain metabolic changes in a rat model of CLD-induced HE with a focus on energy metabolism, using the methodological advantages of high field proton and phosphorus Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (1H- and 31P-MRS). Wistar rats were bile duct ligated (BDL) and studied before BDL and at post-operative weeks 4 and 8. Glutamine increased linearly over time (+146 %) together with plasma ammonium (+159 %). As a compensatory effect, other brain osmolytes decreased: myo-inositol (-36 %), followed by total choline and creatine. A decrease in the neurotransmitters glutamate (-17 %) and aspartate (-28 %) was measured only at week 8, while no significant changes were observed for lactate and phosphocreatine. Among the other energy metabolites measured by 31P-MRS, we observed a non-significant decrease in ATP together with a significant decrease in ADP (-28 %), but only at week 8 after ligation. Finally, brain glutamine showed the strongest correlations with changes in other brain metabolites, indicating its importance in type C HE. In conclusion, mild alterations in some metabolites involved in energy metabolism were observed but only at the end stage of the disease when edema and neurological changes are already present. Therefore, our data indicate that impaired energy metabolism is not one of the major causes of early HE symptoms in the established model of type C HE.
Keywords: Bile duct ligation; Energy metabolism; Phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Type C hepatic encephalopathy; in vivo.