The activity patterns of enzyme linked to energy transduction are measured as an estimate of the energy potential capacity of the brain during aging. Early investigations provided information on age-related modifications in the apparent activity of these enzymes in the brain as a whole without taking into account the anatomical, morphological, and functional heterogeneity of the discrete brain regions, the metabolic compartments, and their different time course of aging processes. These considerations prompted the investigators to focus their efforts on subcellular organelles, representative of metabolic compartments, isolated from selected brain regions. In the present study, to better elucidate the role of the synaptic compartment during aging, the maximum rate (Vmax) of enzymes involved in energy metabolic pathways is evaluated in synaptosomes isolated from the cerebral cortex of rats aged 4, 12, and 24 months. The potential catalytic activity of phosphofructokinase and citrate synthase is not affected by aging. In contrast, the Vmax of pyruvate dehydrogenase and particularly of cytochrome oxidase decreases in aged rats. A marked increase is found in the Vmax of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase in 24-month-old rats and could support the availability of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) for antiperoxidative processes. Pretreatments of the animals with certain drugs are performed in order to check the responsiveness of the tissue and the plasticity of enzyme proteins during aging. Papaverine (acting on macrocirculation) is ineffective, but raubasine (acting on microcirculation and metabolism) and almitrine (acting on oxygen availability) both interfere with the potential activity of some of the enzymes tested. Their influence differs with the age of the animal and are in agreement with their action on brain carbohydrate and phospholipid metabolism.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. D. Curti at Institute of Pharmacology, University of Pavia, Piazza Botta 11, 27100, Pavia, Italy.
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