Effect of aspartame on seizures in various models of experimental epilepsy

G. Guiso, S. Caccia, A. Vezzani, M. A. Stasi, M. Salmona, M. Romano, S. Garattini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated in rats whether aspartame intake affected the susceptibility to seizures induced chemically (metrazol, quinolinic acid) or electrically (electroshock). Aspartame (0.75-1.0 g/kg), given orally as a single bolus to 16-hr fasted animals 60 min before metrazol, significantly increased the number of animals showing clonic-tonic seizures. At 1.0 g/kg the ED50 for clonic-tonic convulsions was lowered by 23%. A similar increase in seizure susceptibility was observed with 0.25-0.5 g/kg of the aspartame's metabolite phenylalanine. When aspartame was administered to fasted rats in three divided doses (0.33 g/kg) over 120 min or to fed animals after a meal, or overnight with the diet, no significant changes in the incidence of animals showing seizures was observed. One gram per kilogram aspartame and 0.5 g/kg phenylalanine did not modify the CC50 (mA) for tonic hindlimb extension induced by electroshock and the electroencephalographic seizures caused by intrahippocampal injection of 120 nmol quinolinic acid. Plasma and brain levels of phenylalanine and tyrosine significantly raised after both 1 g/kg aspartame as a single bolus (plasma: Phe 285%, Tyr 288%; brain: Phe 146%, Tyr 192%; above controls) or in three divided doses (plasma: Phe 207%, Tyr 315%; brain Phe 103%, Tyr 211%; above controls) and 0.5 g/kg phenylalanine (plasma: Phe 339%, Tyr 410%; brain: Phe 219%, Tyr 192%; above controls), but the ratio Phe Tyr was not modified. Our data indicate that aspartame cannot be regarded as a general proconvulsant agent. The mechanisms of potentiation of seizures induced by metrazol after the administration of the sweetner in a single rapid intake will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-493
Number of pages9
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Toxicology


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