In vitro studies have suggested that catabolism of branched chain amino acids is linked with alanine and glutamine formed in, and released from, muscle. To explore this possibility in vivo, static and kinetic studies were performed in three patients with classical, and one patient with partial, branched chain α-ketoacid decarboxylase deficiency (maple syrup urine disease, MSUD) and compared to similar studies in eight age-matched controls. The subjects underwent a 24-30-h fast, and a glucose-alanine flux study using stable isotopes. Basal plasma leucine concentrations were elevated (P <0.001) in patients with MSUD (1,140±125 μM vs. 155±18 μM in controls); and in contrast to the controls, branched chain amino acid concentrations in plasma increased during the fast in the MSUD patients. Basal plasma alanine concentrations were lower (P <0.01) in patients with classical MSUD (153±8 μM vs. 495±27 μM in controls). This discrepancy was maintained throughout the fast despite a decrease in alanine concentrations in both groups. Plasma alanine and leucine concentrations in the patient with partial MSUD were intermediate between those of the controls and the subjects with the classical form of the disease. Circulating ketone bodies and glucoregulatory hormones concentrations were similar in the MSUD and normal subjects during the fast.
Morey W. Haymond, Ehud Ben-Galim, Karen E. Strobel