Muscle mass loss and hepatic encephalopathy (complex neuropsychiatric disorder) are serious complications of chronic liver disease (cirrhosis) which impact negatively on clinical outcome and quality of life and increase mortality. Liver disease leads to hyperammonemia and ammonia toxicity is believed to play a major role in the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy. However, the effects of ammonia are not brain-specific and therefore may also affect other organs and tissues including muscle. The precise pathophysiological mechanisms underlying muscle wasting in chronic liver disease remains to be elucidated. In the present study, we characterized body composition as well as muscle protein synthesis in cirrhotic rats with hepatic encephalopathy using the 6-week bile duct ligation (BDL) model which recapitulates the main features of cirrhosis. Compared to sham-operated control animals, BDL rats display significant decreased gain in body weight, altered body composition, decreased gastrocnemius muscle mass and circumference as well as altered muscle morphology. Muscle protein synthesis was also significantly reduced in BDL rats compared to control animals. These findings demonstrate that the 6-week BDL experimental rat is a relevant model to study liver disease-induced muscle mass loss.
Keywords: Ammonia; Experimental cirrhosis; Hepatic encephalopathy; Muscle mass loss; Protein synthesis.