A Quantitative Autoradiographic Method for Determination of Regional Rates of Cerebral Protein Synthesis In Vivo

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Protein synthesis is required for development and maintenance of neuronal function and is involved in adaptive changes in the nervous system. Moreover, it is thought that dysregulation of protein synthesis in the nervous system may be a core phenotype in some developmental disorders. Accurate measurement of rates of cerebral protein synthesis in animal models is important for understanding these disorders. The method that we have developed was designed to be applied to the study of awake, behaving animals. It is a quantitative autoradiographic method, so it can yield rates in all regions of the brain simultaneously. The method is based on the use of a tracer amino acid, L-[1-14C]-leucine, and a kinetic model of the behavior of L-leucine in the brain. We chose L-[1-14C]-leucine as the tracer because it does not lead to extraneous labeled metabolic products. It is either incorporated into protein or rapidly metabolized to yield 14CO2 which is diluted in a large pool of unlabeled CO2 in the brain. The method and the model also allow for the contribution of unlabeled leucine derived from tissue proteolysis to the tissue precursor pool for protein synthesis. The method has the spatial resolution to determine protein synthesis rates in cell and neuropil layers, as well as hypothalamic and cranial nerve nuclei. To obtain reliable and reproducible quantitative data, it is important to adhere to procedural details. Here we present the detailed procedures of the quantitative autoradiographic L-[1-14C]-leucine method for the determination of regional rates of protein synthesis in vivo.