Sex is associated with differences in oxidative stress and susceptibility to severe hepatic encephalopathy in bile-duct ligated rats

J Neurochem. 2022 Aug;162(4):337-351. doi: 10.1111/jnc.15661. Epub 2022 Jul 18.


Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a debilitating neurological complication of chronic liver disease (CLD). Hyperammonemia plays an important role in HE's pathogenesis, acting synergistically with systemic oxidative stress. During CLD, muscle plays a compensatory role in detoxifying ammonia, and therefore muscle loss leads to an increase in the risk of developing HE. With most animal studies involving males, sex's impact on the development of CLD and associated complications such as HE and muscle loss remains unknown. Therefore, we aimed to identify the impact of sex on CLD, HE, and muscle mass loss in a rodent model of CLD. Liver injury markers, hyperammonemia, oxidative stress, muscle mass, and ammonia clearance were measured in female and male bile-duct ligated (BDL) rats. In addition, covert HE was assessed in females while ammonia-precipitated severe HE was assessed in female and male BDL rats, and male BDL rats treated with allopurinol (100 mg/kg), an antioxidant (xanthine oxidase inhibitor). Female BDL developed CLD and HE (impaired motor coordination and night activity) compared to respective SHAM. Hyperammonemia and muscle ammonia clearance were similar between female and male BDL. However, only female BDL rats did not develop muscle loss, brain edema, and short-term memory impairment (vs. female SHAM) and systemic oxidative stress and decreased albumin levels (vs. male BDL). Furthermore, both female BDL and allopurinol-treated male BDL rats were protected against ammonia-induced overt HE. In conclusion, female and male BDL rats develop distinct features of CLD and HE, with systemic oxidative stress playing a pivotal role in the susceptibility to ammonia-precipitated overt HE.

Keywords: ammonia; brain edema; glutamine synthetase; liver disease; sarcopenia; sex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allopurinol
  • Ammonia
  • Animals
  • Bile
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy* / etiology
  • Hyperammonemia* / etiology
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Rats


  • Allopurinol
  • Ammonia

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