Protoporphyrin IX (PP) and N-methylprotoporphyrin IX (N-MePP) added in vitro to liver membranes reduced dose-dependently the affinity of [3H]PK 11195 for the mitocnondrial benzodiazepine receptors (MBRs), the latter being about 20 times more potent (Ki 4.5 and 0.25 muM). Preincubation of these two porphyrins with liver homogenates for 120 min at 4° resulted in significant inhibition of [3H]-PK 11195 binding even after repeated washings of the membranes due to the residual presence in the membranes of about 35 and 5% of PP and N-MePP, respectively. Thus, the hypothesis that an in vivo increase in the hepatic porphyrin content modifies the binding of the isoquinoline PK 11195 to the MBRs was investigated in an experimental model of protoporphyria. PP and N-MePP were allowed to accumulate in vivo through treatment with 3,5-diethoxycarbonyl-1,4-dihydrocollidine (DDC) (100 mg/kg i.p., once), and rats were killed 5 h after treatment when hepatic porphyrin accumulation was marked (10-fold increase), PP predominating. In the liver, treatment reduced the affinity (Kd) of [3H]PK 11195 for MBRs (from 3.56 to 15.37 nM, P <0.01) and the maximum number of binding sites (Bmax) (55% decrease, P <0.05); the affinity (Ki) of RO 5-4864 for [3H]PK 11195 binding sites was also reduced (from 23.9 to 72.99 nM, P <0.05). No significant differences were found in the brain cortex. Liver and brain diazepam binding inhibitor levels and plasma corticosterone levels were unchanged. The reduction in [3H]PK 11195 binding to MBRs in the liver of DDC-treated rats thus appears to be attributable to a specific effect of the DDC-induced formation of the two protoporphyrins; this conclusion suggests that in hepatic protoporphyria processes modulated by MBRs may be altered.
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