1. The effects of phenylalanine and its metabolites (phenylacetate, phenethylamine, phenyl-lactate, o-hydroxyphenylacetate and phenylpyruvate) on the activity of 3-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase (EC 1.1.1.30) 3-oxo acid CoA-transferase (EC 2.8.3.5) and acetoacetyl-CoA thiolase (EC 2.3.1.9) in brain of suckling rats were investigated. 2. The 3-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase from the brain of suckling rats had a Km for 3-hydroxybutyrate of 1.2 mM. Phenylpyruvate, phenylacetate and o-hydroxyphenylacetate inhibited the enzyme activity with Ki values of 0.5, 1.3 and 4.7 mM respectively. 3. The suckling-rat brain 3-oxo acid CoA-transferase activity had a Km for acetoacetate of 0.665 mM and for succinyl (3-carboxypropionyl)-CoA of 0.038 mM. The enzyme was inhibited with respect to acetoacetate by phenylpyruvate (Ki equals 1.3 mM) and o-hydroxyphenylacetate (Ki equals 4.5 mM). The reaction in the direction of acetoacetate was also inhibited by phenylpyruvate (Ki equals 1.6 mM) and o-hydroxyphenylacetate (Ki equals 4.5 mM). 4. Phenylpyruvate inhibited with respect to acetoacetyl-CoA both the mitochondrial (Ki equals 3.2 mM) and cytoplasmic (Ki equals 5.2 mM) acetoacetyl-CoA thiolase activities. 5. The results suggest that inhibition of 3-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase and 3-oxo acid CoA-transferase activities may impair ketone-body utilization and hence lipid synthesis in the developing brain. This suggestion is discussed with reference to the pathogenesis of mental retardation in phenylketonuria.

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