The relationships between the increase in blood ketone-body concentrations and several parameters that can potentially influence the rate of hepatic fatty acid oxidation were studied during progressive starvation (up to 24 h) in the rat in order to discover whether the sensitivity of mitochondrial overt carnitine palmitoyltransferase (CPT I) to malonyl-CoA plays an important part in determining the intrahepatic potential for fatty acid oxidation during the onset of ketogenic conditions. A rapid increase in blood ketone-body concentration occurred between 12 and 16 h of starvation, several hours after the marked fall in hepatic malonyl-CoA and in serum insulin concentrations and doubling of plasma non-esterfied fatty acid (NEFA) concentration. Consequently, both the changes in hepatic malonyl-CoA and serum NEFA preceded the increase in blood ketone-body concentration by several hours. The maximal activity of CPT I increased gradually throughout the 24 h period of starvation, but the increases did not become significant before 18 h of starvation. By contrast, the sensitivity of CPT I to malonyl-CoA and the increase in blood ketone-body concentration followed an identical time course, demonstrating the central importance of this parameter in determining the ketogenic response of the liver to the onset of the starved state.

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Author notes

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Present address: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, U.K.

Present address: Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust, University of London, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, U.K.