Ketone bodies are an avidly oxidized cellular fuel source, produced in abundance during the neonatal period, starvation, decompensated diabetes, and by adherence to low-carbohydrate (e.g., Atkins) diets. Ketones are known to be metabolically important for two reasons: first, their accumulation in blood can promote ketoacidosis - elicited by mismatch between rates of ketogenesis and ketone body oxidation. Second, depending on physiological state, ketones supply up to 40% of the carbon backbones that yield high-energy phosphates. While the adverse consequences of ketoacidosis are well-appreciated, experimental models to date have not revealed whether loss of ketone oxidation can be energetically tolerated. Preliminary studies from this laboratory show that germline Oxct1-/- mice, which lack the enzyme critical for ketone body utilization, succinyl-CoA:3-oxo-transferase (SCOT), are not viable after the second postnatal day. The proposed study will test the central hypothesis that ketone bodies serve an obligate energetic role in select physiological states, in that deficiencies of ketone body oxidation create metabolic abnormalities in the neonatal period and during nutrient deprivation in the adult. To specifically examine the energetic effects of ketolytic deficiency, independent of ketoacidosis, this laboratory also recently developed tissue-specific loss-of-SCOT-function mouse models that will be used within the following Specific Aims.
The first aim will demonstrate the tissue- specific energetic requirement for ketone metabolism in the neonatal period. Using skeletal myocyte-, cardiac myocyte-, and neuron-specific Oxct1-/- mice, these experiments are expected to reveal the tissue(s) most dependent on ketones during the neonatal period. Next, using adult mice with loss-of-SCOT-function in skeletal muscle, collectively the largest ketone user and a key determinant of integrated metabolic homeostasis, the second aim will determine the role of ketone body metabolism in whole-body and skeletal muscle metabolism in the fed state and during prolonged nutrient deprivation.
The third aim will use adult mice with loss-of-SCOT-function in heart to explore the role of ketone body metabolism in this high energy-requiring organ in the fed state and in the setting of nutrient deprivation. Because nutrient deprivation decreases glucose availability, elimination of ketone body oxidation is expected to elicit metabolic abnormalities, promote hypoglycemia, and when eliminated in cardiac muscle, contribute to the development of cardiomyopathy. Taken together, these studies will provide fundamental insight into the energetic roles of ketone body metabolism in a mammalian system, and therefore could ultimately influence (i) human newborn screening regimens, which currently do not test discrete disorders of ketone metabolism, (ii) the development of new risk- stratifying biomarkers for adult metabolic disease, and (iii) the development of individualized metabogenomics- guided nutritional regimens.

Public Health Relevance

Ketone body metabolism is an evolutionarily conserved metabolic pathway that is an important contributor to metabolic homeostasis in the neonatal period and in post-absorptive states. Despite numerous experiments that have quantified ketone body utilization, contexts in which ketone bodies are energetically essential have not been described. Novel mouse mutant strains, engineered with tissue-specific deficiencies of ketone body metabolism, are expected to reveal ketoacidosis-independent energetic requirements for ketone metabolism in the neonatal period and during nutrient deprivation in the adult. Therefore, the scope of prospective implications of these studies extends from the prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome to avoiding and treating complications of adult metabolic disease.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-EMNR-R (02))
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Laughlin, Maren R
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Washington University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
Saint Louis
United States
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