Post-mortem changes in human central nervous tissue and the effects on quantitation of nucleic acids and enzymes

The Histochemical Journal
D M MannJ S Davies


A study of post-mortem changes in human central nervous tissue has shown that within 100 h of death, no significant change occurs in the amount of nerve cell DNA and nucleolar RNA nor in some membrane-associated enzymes such as succinate dehydrogenase, NADH and NADPH diaphorase, and cytochrome oxidase. Low molecular weight RNA species, probably transfer and messenger RNA are quickly lost, but there is little alteration in ribosomal RNA content. Cytoplasmic enzymes show variable changes; phosphofructokinase activity is rapidly decreased; hexokinase is unaltered but lactate dehydrogenase, pyruvate kinase and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase initially show increases in activity which subsequently decline. Oxygen uptake diminishes quickly. These findings indicate that mechanical alterations in cell structure, following death, render organelles physiologically ineffective long before any significant changes in certain constituent biochemicals are detected. This report emphasizes the great importance necessary in the selection of appropriately time matched post-mortem tissues if accurate comparative studies of many of the cells constituents are to be made.


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