Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 432–442 | Cite as

Metabolic fuel utilization and pyruvate oxidation during the postnatal period

  • J. M. Medina
  • A. Tabernero
  • J. A. Tovar
  • J. Martín-Barrientos


The transplacental supply of nutrients is interrupted at birth, which diverts maternal metabolism to lactation. After birth, energy homeostasis is rapidly regained through milk nutrients which supply the newborn with the fatty acids and ketone bodies required for neonatal development. However, immediately after birth and before the onset of suckling there is a time lapse in which the newborn undergoes a unique kind of starvation. During this period glucose is scarce and ketone bodies are not available owing to the delay in ketogenesis. Under these circumstances, the newborn is supplied with another metabolic fuel, lactate, which is utilized as a source of energy and carbon skeletons. Neonatal rat lung, heart, liver and brain utilize lactate for energy production and lipogenesis. Lactate is also utilized by the brain of human babies with type I glycogenosis. Both rat neurons and astrocytes in primary culture actively use lactate as an oxidizable substrate and as a precursor of phospholipids and sterols. Lactate oxidation is enhanced by dichloroacetate, an inhibitor of the pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase in neurons but not in astrocytes, suggesting that the pyruvate dehydrogenase is regulated differently in each type of cell. Despite the low activity of this enzyme in newborn brain, pyruvate decarboxylation is the main fate of glucose in both neurons and astrocytes. The occurrence of a yeast-like pyruvate decarboxylase activity in neonatal brain may explain these results.


Ketone Body Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Neonatal Brain Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Kinase Pyruvate Decarboxylase 
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Copyright information

© SSIEM and Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. M. Medina
    • 1
  • A. Tabernero
    • 1
  • J. A. Tovar
    • 1
  • J. Martín-Barrientos
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Bioquímica Biología Molecular, Facultad de FarmaciaUniversidad de SalamancaSalamancaSpain

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