Ketone-body utilization by adult and suckling rat brain in vivo

R A Hawkins, D H Williamson, H A Krebs
Biochemical Journal 1971, 122 (1): 13-8
1. Ketone-body utilization in fed and starved adult and suckling rats has been investigated by measuring arterio-venous differences across the brain. Venous blood was collected from the confluence of sinuses and arterial blood from the femoral artery in adult rats and by cardiac puncture in suckling rats. 2. During starvation the arterio-venous difference of ketone bodies increased in proportion to their concentrations in the blood and reached a value of 0.16mm at 48h. At a given concentration of the respective ketone bodies the arterio-venous differences of acetoacetate were about twice those of 3-hydroxybutyrate. 3. Fed rats in which the concentrations of ketone bodies were raised by intravenous infusion of sodium acetoacetate had the same arterio-venous differences as starved rats at corresponding ketone-body concentrations. Thus the ability of the rat brain to utilize ketone bodies is independent of the nutritional state. 4. The concentrations of glucose, acetoacetate and 3-hydroxybutyrate were much lower in the brain than in the arterial blood. The measured (blood concentration)/(brain concentration) ratio was 4.4 for glucose, 4.5 for acetoacetate and 8.1 for 3-hydroxybutyrate in 48h-starved rats. 5. The mean arterio-venous difference of glucose across the brain was 0.51mm in fed rats and 0.43mm in 96h-starved rats. 6. Conversion of glucose into lactate rose from negligible values in the fed state to 0.2mm after 48h starvation and decreased to zero after 96h starvation. 7. In 16-22-day-old suckling rats the arterio-venous differences of ketone bodies across the brain were also proportional to the ketone-body concentration, but they were about 3-4 times greater than in adult rats at the same blood ketone-body concentration. 8. Arterio-venous differences of glucose were about the same in adult and suckling rats. 9. The brain of fed suckling rats formed more lactate from glucose than fed adult rats. 10. The results indicate that ketone bodies are major metabolic fuels of the brain of the suckling rat under normal conditions.

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