Glucose loading of rats made thiamin deficient by dietary deprivation of thiamin and the administration of pyrithiamin (40 mug/100 g, i.p.) precipitates an acute neuropathy, a model of Wernicke's encephalopathy in man (Zimitat and Nixon, Metab. Brain Dis. 1999;14:1-20). Immunohistochemical detection of Fos proteins was used as a marker to identify neuronal populations in the thiamin-deficient rat brain affected by glucose loading. As thiamin deficiency progressed, the extent and intensity of Fos-Like immunoreactivity (FLI) in brain structures typically affected by thiamin deficiency (the thalamus, mammillary bodies, inferior colliculus, vestibular nucleus and inferior olives) were markedly increased when compared to thiamin-replete controls. Glucose loading for 1-3 days further increased the intensity of FLI in these same regions, consistent with a dependence of Fos expression on carbohydrate metabolism as well as on thiamin deficiency. The timed acute changes that follow a bolus glucose load administered to thiamin-deficient animals may provide a sequential account of events in the pathogenesis of brain damage in this model of Wernicke's encephalopathy. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.