In vivo hyperpolarized carbon13 magnetic resonance spectroscopy reveals increased pyruvate carboxylase flux in an insulinresistant mouse model
In Vivo Hyperpolarized Carbon-13 Magnetic Resonance
Spectroscopy Reveals Increased Pyruvate Carboxylase
Flux in an Insulin-Resistant Mouse Model
Philip Lee,1,2 Waifook Leong,1,3 Trish Tan,1,3 Miangkee Lim,1 Weiping Han,1,3,4 and George K. Radda1
The pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes is characterized by impaired insulin action andincreased hepatic glucose production (HGP). Despite the importance of hepatic metabolicaberrations in diabetes development, there is currently no molecular probe that allows mea-surement of hepatic gluconeogenic pathways in vivo and in a noninvasive manner. In thisstudy, we used hyperpolarized carbon 13 (13C)-labeled pyruvate magnetic resonance spec-troscopy (MRS) to determine changes in hepatic gluconeogenesis in a high-fat diet (HFD)-induced mouse model of type 2 diabetes. Compared with mice on chow diet, HFD-fed micedisplayed higher levels of oxaloacetate, aspartate, and malate, along with increased 13C labelexchange rates between hyperpolarized [1-13C]pyruvate and its downstream metabolites,[1-13C]malate and [1-13C]aspartate. Biochemical assays using liver extract revealed up-regu-lated malate dehydrogenase activity, but not aspartate transaminase activity, in HFD-fedmice. Moreover, the 13C label exchange rate between [1-13C]pyruvate and [1-13C]aspartate(kpyr->asp) exhibited apparent correlation with gluconeogenic pyruvate carboxylase (PC) ac-tivity in hepatocytes. Finally, up-regulated HGP by glucagon stimulation was detected byan increase in aspartate signal and kpyr->asp, whereas HFD mice treated with metformin for2 weeks displayed lower production of aspartate and malate, as well as reduced kpyr->asp and
13C-label exchange rate between pyruvate and malate, consistent with down-regulated glu-coneogenesis. Conclusion: Taken together, we demonstrate that increased PC flux is animportant pathway responsible for increased HGP in diabetes development, and that phar-macologically induced metabolic changes specific to the liver can be detected in vivo with ahyperpolarized 13C-biomolecular probe. Hyperpolarized 13C MRS and the determinationof metabolite exchange rates may allow longitudinal monitoring of liver function in diseasedevelopment. (HEPATOLOGY 2013;57:515-524)
Thecoordinatedactionsofinsulinandglucagon has not been possible to evaluate this metabolic dys-
ensure that glucose homeostasis is maintained
function in the liver by a noninvasive in vivo method.
across a wide range of physiological conditions.
Carbon-13 (13C) magnetic resonance spectroscopy
In obesity-associated type 2 diabetes, control of glucose
(MRS) has been used to study hepatic gluconeogenesis
metabolism by these two regulatory hormones is
since the 1980s. However, its inherent low sensitivity
impaired, resulting in hepatic insulin resistance and ex-
has largely limited its application to the study of
cessive endogenous glucose production.1 To date, it
steady-state metabolism in perfused livers with long
Abbreviations: ALT, alanine transaminase; AST, aspartate transaminase; 13C, carbon-13; ChREBP, carbohydrate response element-binding protein; FAS, fatty
acid synthase; G-6-Pase, glucose-6-phosphatase; HFD, high-fat diet; HGP, hepatic glucose production; IHTG, intrahepatic triglyceride; IPGTT, intraperitonealglucose tolerance test; ITT, insulin tolerance test; IV, intravenously; kpyr->ala, 13C-label exchange rate between pyruvate and alanine; kpyr->asp, 13C-label exchangerate between pyruvate and aspartate; kpyr->lac, 13C-label exchange rate between pyruvate and lactate; kpyr->mal, 13C-label exchange rate between pyruvate andmalate; kpyr->oaa, 13C-label exchange rate between pyruvate and oxaloacate; LDH, lactate dehydrogenase; MDH, malate dehydrogenase; MRI, magnetic resonanceimaging; MRS, magnetic resonance spectroscopy; NAFLD, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; OAA, oxaloacetate; PC, pyruvate carboxylase; PDH, pyruvatedehydrogenase; PEP, phosphoenolpyruvate; PEPCK, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase; SEM, standard error of the mean; SNR, signal-to-noise ratio; SREBP-1c,steroid regulatory element-binding protein; TCA, tricarboxylic acid.
From the 1Singapore Bioimaging Consortium, Singapore; 2Clinical Imaging Research Centre, National University of Singapore, Center for Translation Medicine,
Singapore; 3Metabolism in Human Diseases, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore; and 4Department of Biochemistry, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine,National University of Singapore, Singapore.
Received April 16, 2012; accepted August 8, 2012.
This study was supported by an intramural funding from the A*STAR Biomedical Research Council.
HEPATOLOGY, February 2013
acquisition times2 and is thus unsuitable for longitudi-
before examination. All procedures involving animals
nal studies. The recent development of hyperpolarized
were approved by the A-STAR Institutional Animal
13C MRS addresses this problem by improving the sig- Care and Use Committee (nos. 080351 and 090428).
nal-to-noise ratio (SNR) by more than 10,000-fold,3
Animal Handling. Anesthesia was induced with
making it possible to visualize uptake of 13C labeled
2.0% isoflurane mixed with medical air. Body temper-
pyruvate in the liver and its subsequent metabolic con-
ature was maintained at 37C. A catheter was inserted
version catalyzed by specific enzymes in real time.4,5
into the tail vein for intravenous (IV) administration
In gluconeogenesis, the conversion of pyruvate into
of the hyperpolarized 13C pyruvate inside the magnetic
phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) in the liver is accomplished
resonance imaging (MRI) system. Mice were subse-
in two enzyme-mediated steps: anaplerosis of pyruvate
quently sacrificed for measurement of plasma metabo-
into oxaloacetate (OAA) catalyzed by pyruvate carboxyl-
lites and liver extraction.
ase (PC), followed by conversion of OAA into PEP
Glucose and Insulin Tolerance Tests. The intraperi-
mediated by PEP carboxykinase (PEPCK). PEPCK is
toneal glucose tolerance test (IPGTT) and insulin toler-
commonly considered the control point for liver gluco-
ance test (ITT) were conducted as described previously.8
neogenesis and its overexpression leads to hyperglyce-
Details are available in the Supporting Materials.
mia. However, deletion of PEPCK reduced gluconeo-
Body-Composition Measurement. Body composi-
genic flux by only 40%,6 suggesting that PC may play a
tions were measured with an EchoMRI 100 (Echo
more-central role in controlling gluconeogenesis.7
Medical Systems, Houston, TX). Body fat mass and
In this study, we investigated the effect of insulin
body lean mass were measured within 1 minute.
resistance on in vivo gluconeogenic flux in high-fat
In Vivo Proton MRS Determination of Fat Con-
diet (HFD)-fed mice with real-time measurements of
tent in Hepatic Steatosis. Proton MRS measurements
hyperpolarized [1-13C]pyruvate anaplerosis into the tri-
were performed with a 7-T preclinical MRI system
carboxylic acid (TCA) cycle by PC, as well as its trans-
(ClinScan; Bruker BioSpin MRI GmbH, Ettlingen,
amination into [1-13C]alanine catalyzed by alanine
Germany). The voxel of interest was a 64-mm3 vol-
transaminase (ALT). We also evaluated the sensitivity
ume placed in the right hepatic lobe of the liver, with
of hyperpolarized 13C MRS in detecting changes in
care taken to ensure exclusion of major blood vessels.
hepatic glucose production upon pharmacological
Intrahepatic triglyceride (IHTG) content was expressed
intervention. Such capability may facilitate longitudi-
as a percentage of the fat signal peak area with refer-
nal assessment of therapeutic response in diabetic drug
ence to the combined signal with water9 (see Support-
development, as well as a better understanding of the
ing Materials for more details).
mechanism of action of candidate compounds.
In Vivo Measurements of Hepatic Metabolism
With Hyperpolarized 13C. [1-13C]pyruvic acid (40mg; Cambridge Isotope Laboratories, Cambridge, MA),
Materials and Methods
mixed with 15 mM of trityl radical (OXO63; GE
Animal Welfare. Starting at weaning age of 3
Healthcare, Amersham, UK) and a trace amount of Dot-
weeks, male C57/Bl6 mice received either a standard
arem (Guerbet, Birmingham UK), was polarized and dis-
chow diet with 6.0% (w/w) fat, 47.0% (w/w) carbohy-
solved in a hyperpolarizer (Oxford Instruments, Oxford,
drates, and 18.0% (w/w) protein, with metabolizable
energy of 3.1 kcal/g (Harlan Teklad, Madison, WI), or
[1-13C]pyruvate (0.5 mmol/kg body weight) was injected
an HFD containing 34.9% (w/w) fat, 26.3% (w/w)
IV over 3 seconds, and 60 individual liver spectra were
carbohydrates, and 26.2% (w/w) protein, with metab-
acquired over 1 minute in a 9.4-T preclinical MRI scan-
olizable energy of 5.2 kcal/g (Research Diets, Inc.,
ner. MRS quantification and analysis protocols are
New Brunswick, NJ), for 24 weeks. Mice on these two
described in further detail in the Supporting Materials.
diets are referred to as Chow-fed and HFD, respec-
Glucagon and Metformin Stimulation. Chow-fed
tively, in this article. All animals were fasted 24 hours
mice were anesthetized and IV injected with glucagon
Address reprint requests to: Philip Lee, Ph.D., Singapore Bioimaging Consortium, 11 Biopolis Way, #02-01 Helios, 138667 Singapore. E-mail: [email protected]
a-star.edu.sg; fax: þ65 64789957.
C 2012 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
View this article online at wileyonlinelibrary.com.
DOI 10.1002/hep.26028Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.
Additional Supporting Information may be found in the online version of this article.
HEPATOLOGY, Vol. 57, No. 2, 2013
(20 lg/kg), followed by hyperpolarized 13C MRS
Table 1. Metabolic Characteristics of HFD-fed mice* (N 5
measurements 10 minutes later. This interval was cho-
sen specifically to coincide with the maximal increase
in blood glucose level (Supporting Fig. 1). HFD mice
were treated with metformin (200 mg/kg, once-daily)
for 2 weeks. In vivo measurements of hepatic metabo-
lism were performed before and after treatment.
Intrahepatic TG, %
Fasting glucose, mmol/L
Ex Vivo Biochemical Enzyme Activity Assays. For
Fasting insulin, ng/mL
each enzyme-activity assay, 100 mg of liver tissue was
Fed glucagon, pg/mL
homogenized in 200 lL of ice-cold 100-mM Tris-HCl
Plasma TG, mmol/L
buffer, then centrifuged for 10 minutes at 13,000g
*N ¼ 7 in each group.
to remove insoluble material. All assays were based oncontinuous spectrophotometric rate determination.
HFD mice were glucose intolerant, insulin resistant,
Details are available in the Supporting Materials.
hyperglycemic, and hyperinsulinemic, clear indications
Statistical Analysis. All statistical analysis was per-
of pre–type 2 diabetes.11
formed with the Graphpad Prism software package
Elevated Carbohydrate Anaplerosis in Mice With
(GrapPad Software, Inc., La Jolla, CA). Data were pre-
Hepatic Steatosis as Detected by Hyperpolarized 13C
sented as means 6 standard error of the mean (SEM).
MRS. We next examined whether metabolic changes
Statistical significance in hyperpolarized 13C metabolite
in gluconeogenesis could be detected in vivo with
signal ratios and ex vivo hepatic enzyme activity com-
hyperpolarized [1-13C]pyruvate. Pyruvate is at a major
parisons were assessed by using a two-tailed unpaired
metabolic junction and generates four metabolite inter-
Student t test. For the correlations between 13C-
mediates, each catalyzed by a distinct enzyme or
exchange rates and ex vivo enzyme activities, Pearson's
enzyme complex: lactate by LDH (lactate dehydrogen-
product moment was computed, after which the two-
ase); alanine by ALT; acetyl-coA by PDHC (pyruvate
tailed Student t test was used to test for statistical sig-
dehydrogenase complex); and oxaloacetate by PC (pyru-
nificance. For the IPGTT, ITT glucose blood tests,
vate carboxylase). Because of the abundance of LDH
and insulin serum test, two-way analysis of variance,
and ALT in the liver, rapid 13C label exchange from
followed by Bonferroni's post-tests, were used. The sig-
[1-13C]pyruvate to [1-13C]lactate and [1-13C]alanine
nificance limit was set at P < 0.05.
rendered the lactate and alanine the two largest metabo-lite peaks in the MRS spectrum (Fig. 2A). PDH fluxcould be assessed by the changes in [1-13C]bicarbonate
levels (Fig. 2A,B). The anaplerotic role of pyruvate was
Mice on Prolonged HFD Develop Hepatic Steato-
observed by its conversion into OAA, a vital intermedi-
sis, Glucose Intolerance, and Insulin Resistance. We
ate metabolite involved in gluconeogenesis and oxidative
first defined the pathophysiological effect of prolonged
phosphorylation. [1-13C]OAA can be rapidly converted
HFD feeding. HFD-fed mice developed hepatic steato-
sis, with more than an 8-fold higher IHTG level than
[1-13C]aspartate, and [6-13C]citrate, catalyzed by
Chow-fed mice (Table 1). HFD mice were also hyper-
PEPCK, malate dehydrogenase (MDH), aspartate trans-
glycemic and hyperinsulinemic. Hematoxylin and eo-
aminase (AST), and citrate synthase, respectively. In the
sin and Oil Red O histology revealed massive lipid
MRS spectra, we were able to detect [1-13C]malate and
deposits in the hepatocytes of HFD-fed mice (Sup-
[1-13C]aspartate peaks, consistent with observations in
the perfused mouse liver.4 Because the conversion of
included a higher body weight and body fat composi-
OAA to malate and aspartate are reversible reactions,
tion, together with a lower body lean content. IPGTT
there is 13C label exchange between these three metabo-
revealed impaired glucose tolerance in HFD mice, as
evidenced by delayed glucose clearance at 45, 60, 90,
[1-13C]malate to [1-13C]fumarate, catalyzed by fuma-
and 120 minutes after infusion (Fig. 1A,B). In addi-
rase, resulted in the repositioning of the 13C label
tion, there was simultaneous compensatory increase in
between the C1 and C4 positions of fumarate. This, in
insulin secretion (Fig. 1C,D). ITT revealed a reduced
effect, gave rise to [4-13C]malate, [4-13C]aspartate, and
blood glucose decrease in HFD mice, compared to
[4-13C]OAA peaks.4,12 A representative time course dis-
Chow-fed mice (Fig. 1E,F), indicative of insulin resist-
playing the progression of metabolite signals is shown in
ance in HFD mice. Together, these results show that
Fig. 2B. These results show that the major downstream
HEPATOLOGY, February 2013
Fig. 1. Impaired glucose tolerance, increased insulin secretion, and reduced insulin sensitivity in HFD mice. (A) HFD mice exhibited glucose
intolerance, compared to Chow-diet fed mice. Mice were 27 weeks old. N ¼ 8 for each group. (B) Glucose AUC (area under curve) calculatedbased on data in (A). (C) Plasma insulin levels in HFD (N ¼ 3) and Chow-diet fed mice (N ¼ 10) in IPGTT. (D) Glucose-induced insulin secre-tion calculated by integrating the AUC after baseline subtraction based on data in (C). (E) ITT revealed that HFD mice (N ¼ 4) exhibited lowerinsulin sensitivity than Chow-diet fed control (N ¼ 10). (F) Insulin-induced glucose level in plasma calculated by integrating AAC (area abovecurve) based on data in (E). Data are presented as mean 6 SEM. *P < 0.05; **P < 0.01.
pathways of pyruvate can be monitored with hyperpolar-
[1-13C]pyruvate and [4-13C]OAA, kpyr->oaa, showed a
more than 3-fold increase in the HFD group, relative to
We next examined the metabolic changes in gluco-
Chow-fed mice. The corresponding time courses over
neogensis in HFD mice. When compared to control
60 seconds illustrated the relatively faster production of
these four-carbon metabolites in the steatotic liver (Sup-
[4-13C]OAA/tCarbon, [1-13C]aspartate/tCarbon, and
porting Fig. S3). Together, the flux measurements show-
[1-13C]alanine/tCarbon were significantly larger in fatty
ing increased PC activity in HFD-fed mouse livers sug-
livers of HFD-fed mice (Fig. 2C), whereas no significant
gest that PC may be a central player in enhanced
change in [1-13C]lactate/tCarbon and [1-13C]bicar/
gluconeogenesis in the prediabetic stage.
tCarbon ratios was observed, suggesting higher PC and
Increased Malate, Aspartate, and Alanine 13C
ALT activities, but not LDH or PDH activities. Consis-
Metabolite Signals in Fatty Liver. With the observa-
tently, the rate of 13C label exchange between [1-13C]py-
tion that [1-13C]malate and [1-13C]aspartate signals
ruvate and [1-13C]alanine, kpyr->ala, was increased by
were significantly increased in fatty liver, we next
more than 70% in HFD-fed mice, whereas no signifi-
sought to understand the mechanism underlying the
cant change was detected in its exchange with
changes. Because each pathway involves two mediating
[1-13C]lactate, kpyr->lac (Fig. 2D). The exchange rate
enzymes, PC/MDH and PC/AST, respectively, it is
between [1-13C]pyruvate and [1-13C]malate, kpyr->mal,
essential to distinguish each enzyme's contribution to
which is dependent on both PC and MDH enzyme ca-
the 13C metabolite signal. Ex vivo enzyme-activity
talysis, increased significantly in fatty liver. The exchange
assays of liver extracts obtained from both HFD- and
between [1-13C]pyruvate and [1-13C]aspartate, kpyr->asp,
Chow-fed mice revealed a significant up-regulation of
mediated by both PC and AST enzymes, was also ele-
PC activity in fatty liver (Fig. 3A). However, there was
vated in the steatotic liver. Exchange rate between
no apparent increase in AST activity (Fig. 3B),
HEPATOLOGY, Vol. 57, No. 2, 2013
Fig. 2. Elevated pyruvate ana-
plerosis in mice with hepatic stea-tosis is detected by hyperpolarized13C MRS. (A) Representation of thein vivo measured hyperpolarized13C spectra in fatty liver. Metabo-lites that were detected include[1-13C]lactate
ppm), [1-13C]alanine (176.4 ppm),[4-13C]OAA
[1-13C]pyruvate (170.8 ppm), and[1-13C]bicarbonate (160.8 ppm).
depicting the simultaneous produc-tion
between mice fed on Chow andHFD. (D) Corresponding 13C labelexchange rates (N ¼ 8 for eachgroup).
mean 6 SEM. *P < 0.05; **P <0.01. Values are displayed in Sup-porting Table 1.
indicating that the larger [1-13C]aspartate signal was
between measured in vivo hyperpolarized 13C exchange
primarily the result of increased PC activity. Hepatic
and actual hepatic enzyme activity. First, the exchange
MDH activity, on the other hand, was up-regulated in
rate between hyperpolarized [1-13C]pyruvate and
diabetic mice (Fig. 3C). Therefore, the higher
[1-13C]alanine, kpyr->ala, correlated with ex vivo hepatic
[1-13C]malate signal could be attributed to a combina-
ALT activity (Fig. 4A). Because ALT is a key regulatory
tion of increased PC and MDH activities. This com-
enzyme in pyruvate recycling and urea production,
bined effect probably led to increased 13C label
in vivo kpyr->ala could be used as an important bio-
exchange between OAA, malate, and fumarate, thus
marker of liver dysfunction. Second, faster 13C label
contributing to an elevated [4-13C]OAA signal (Fig.
exchange between [1-13C]pyruvate and [1-13C]aspar-
2C). These results further support the critical role of
tate, kpyr->asp, correlated well with higher PC activity
PC in gluconeogensis in the prediabetic stage.
in hepatocytes (Fig. 4B). Therefore, kpyr->asp could be
Another key enzyme in gluconeogenesis, PEPCK,
a potential biomarker to reflect in vivo gluconeogenic
was concomitantly up-regulated in the insulin-resistant
flux in the liver. Together, these results demonstrate
liver (Fig. 3D). This further corroborated the observa-
that hyperpolarized 13C metabolic signals may be used
tion that elevated pyruvate anaplerosis was required to
as relevant diagnostic biomarkers of liver dysfunction,
support the increased hepatic glucose production in
such as in diabetes.
diabetic mice. The higher exchange rate between
Detecting Changes in Liver Metabolism Induced
[1-13C]pyruvate and [1-13C]alanine indicated faster
by Glucagon and Metformin With Hyperpolarized
transamination, which was confirmed in the biochemi-
13C MRS. To assess the detection sensitivity of hyper-
cal ALT activity assay (Fig. 3E).
polarized 13C MRS on changes in liver metabolism, we
Hyperpolarized 13C Metabolic Fluxes as Potential
first examined glucagon-induced glucose production in
Biomarkers of Liver Function. We next determined
Chow-fed animals. Higher aspartate, bicarbonate, and
the potential of hyperpolarized 13C metabolic signals
OAA signals were recorded 10 minutes after IV gluca-
as relevant diagnostic biomarkers of liver dysfunction
gon injection (Fig. 5A). The corresponding 13C-label
in the diabetic state by examining the relationship
exchanges rates (kpyr->asp, kpyr->bic, and kpyr->oaa) were
HEPATOLOGY, February 2013
Fig. 3. Up-regulation of gluconeogenic fluxes in fatty liver is accompanied by increased intracellular hepatic enzyme activities. (A) Increased
anaplerotic influx of pyruvate was reflected in the elevated enzyme activity of PC. (B) No significant change was observed in AST activity. (C)MDH activity was elevated in steatotic hepatocytes. (D) Augmented gluconeogenic enzyme PEPCK activity corroborated the state of increased glu-coneogenesis in the insulin-resistant liver. (E) Abnormal liver function in diabetes was evident in the increased ALT flux (N ¼ 8 for each group).
Data are presented as mean 6 SEM. *P < 0.05; **P < 0.01.
also significantly increased (Fig. 5B). Elevated kpyr->asp
and kpyr->oaa are signatures of enhanced hepatic gluco-neogenesis (see above), whereas higher k
Novelty in Measuring Liver Metabolism In
up-regulated pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) activity.13
Vivo. Although it is recognized that glucose homeostasis
Conversely, metformin treatment successfully reduced
maintained by the tissue trio (muscle, liver, and fat) is
hepatic gluconeogenesis, as evidenced by the signifi-
disturbed in diabetes,14 it has not been possible to detect
cantly lower malate and aspartate signals, and the abate-
and measure the underlying hepatic metabolic aberra-
ment of their corresponding exchange rates, k
tions noninvasively in real time. In this study, we dem-
onstrate, for the first time, the novel use of hyperpolar-
pyr->asp (Fig. 5C,D). Blood glucose level was
decreased by 24% as well (Supporting Table 3). These
ized 13C MRS to quantify and assess enzyme fluxes
results show that hyperpolarized 13C MRS appears to
specific to the liver in a type 2 diabetes mouse model in
be sufficiently sensitive for measurement of induced
vivo. By measuring gluconeogenic fluxes, we identify PC
metabolic changes in the liver.
and that its downstream MDH activities are up-
Fig. 4. Correlation between PC and ALT
enzyme activities and the corresponding in vivohyperpolarized 13C metabolic flux biomarkers.
Faster [1-13C]pyruvate to (A) [1-13C]alanine,and (B) [1-13C]aspartate exchanges correlateto higher intracellular ALT and PC activities,respectively.
HEPATOLOGY, Vol. 57, No. 2, 2013
Fig. 5. Hyperpolarized 13C MRS detects
changes in hepatic gluconeogenesis uponpharmacological intervention. (A) Significantlyhigher [1-13C]aspartate and [4-13C]OAA sig-nals and (B) exchange rates were detected 10minutes after glucagon stimulation. (C) Signifi-cantly lower [1-13C]malate and [1-13C]aspar-tate signals and (D) exchange rates weredetected in metformin-treated mice (N ¼ 5 foreach group). Data are presented as mean 6SEM. *P < 0.05; **P < 0.01. Values are dis-played in Supporting Tables 2 and 3.
regulated and suggest the PC pathway as a critical com-
pression of key gluconeogenic enzymes PEPCK and glu-
ponent in the development of hyperglycemia and
addition, previous studies utilizing radioisotopic analysis
Heightened Gluconeogenesis in Diabetes Drives
also showed that carboxylation of pyruvate into OAA is
Pyruvate Anaplerosis. Through validation with spec-
up-regulated in the diabetic rat liver, concomitant with
trophotometric assays of liver tissue extracts, we dem-
dramatic increases in PC,16 PEPCK, and G-6-Pase15
expression. These studies corroborate our finding that
[1-13C]aspartate metabolite signal may be attributed to
both PC and PEPCK enzyme activities are increased in
a higher PC flux, whereas the increased [1-13C]malate
the fatty liver, leading to larger 13C-malate, -aspartate,
signal is a combined effect of increased PC and MDH
and -OAA signals as well as higher rates of chemical
exchange with pyruvate. Indeed, higher hepatic PC ac-
[1-13C]malate are derived from [1-13C]oxaloacetate
tivity correlated with increased PEPCK activity (r2 ¼
through anaplerosis from [1-13C]pyruvate, and a larger
0.82; P < 0.0001) (Supporting Fig. 4), further support-
[4-13C]oxaloacetate pool is indeed detected simultane-
ing the hypothesis that both PC and PEPCK are impor-
ously, we hypothesize that the increase in these down-
tant regulators in gluconeogenesis.7
stream metabolite pools is a manifestation of elevated
Increased glucagon effect. In diabetes, pathological
demand for the intermediate OAA, in response to
alteration of the precise balance between insulin and
higher anabolic rates of gluconeogenesis and fatty acid
glucagon action results in excessive hepatic gluconeo-
synthesis (FAS) (Fig. 6). A few factors may contribute
genesis and glycogenolysis, both of which induce
to this phenomenon in fatty liver, as described below.
hyperglycemia. Moreover, inadequate suppression of
Insulin resistance. Insulin insensitivity in the fatty
postprandial glucagon secretion by insulin in the dia-
liver is detrimental to the hormone's inhibitory role in
betic state causes hyperglucagonemia and evokes ele-
gluconeogenesis, primarily through the inactivation of
vated HGP, as observed in HFD mice. We previously
the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/serine/threonine ki-
reported that combined defects in insulin secretion
nase–signaling pathway,15 thereby enfeebling the sup-
HEPATOLOGY, February 2013
Fig. 6. Demand for intermediate metabolite OAA drives higher anaplerotic pyruvate carboxylase flux. Anaplerotic flux through PC is augmented
in fatty liver as a result of increased demand for the intermediate metabolite, OAA. This phenomenon can be attributed to a series of molecularevents triggered by (1) insulin resistance, (2) dominant glucagon effect, and (3) obesity-induced de novo FAS (see text). Metabolites in redboxes can be detected by hyperpolarized 13C MRS.
hyperglycemia in the absence of dysregulated glucagon
Elevated FAS. De novo FAS in the liver is regulated
secretion in a mouse model with deletion of calcium-
by three known transcription factors: steroid regulatory
sensing protein synaptotagmin-7.17 Indeed, glucagon
element-binding protein (SREBP-1c)22; carbohydrate
plays a major role in promoting gluconeogenesis in
response element-binding protein (ChREBP)23; and
enhancing G-6-Pase activity and PEPCK transcription
peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma.24
in the liver, likely through the protein kinase A–signal-
Hyperinsulinemia induces hepatic SREBP-1c expres-
ing cascade mechanism.18 Thereafter, up-regulated glu-
sion while hyperglycemia stimulates ChREBP activity.
coneogenesis increases the demand for OAA. In this
These events lead to transcriptional activation of all li-
work, we demonstrated up-regulated PC activity in
pogenic genes including adenosine triphosphate citrate
glucagon-stimulated HGP in Chow-fed animals, as
lyase, acetyl-CoA carboxylase, and FAS,25 effectively
detected in vivo with hyperpolarized 13C MRS,
increasing FAS flux. Because citrate formed in the
through the biomarker kpyr->asp. Concomitantly, gluca-
TCA cycle and shuttled to the cytosol is the primary
gon increases PDH activity.19 This technology appears
metabolite required in the production of fatty acids,
to possess sufficient sensitivity to detect this phenom-
there is inevitably an increase in demand for this inter-
enon as well, as evident from the higher kpyr->bic
mediate. Therefore, it is unsurprising that a recent 13C
exchange rate. Treatment with a glucagon-receptor an-
isotopomer study found a 2-fold increase of hepatic
tagonist appears to alleviate HGP in the diabetic
TCA cycle flux in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver
liver,20 and reducing glucagon signaling is being
disease.26 Because only pyruvate that enters the TCA
explored as a potential therapy for diabetes.21 It will
cycle through PC produces a net increase in cycle
be interesting to measure corresponding changes in he-
intermediates, whereas pyruvate entering through
patic metabolism upon therapeutic intervention with a
PDH is restricted to energy production only,27 the ele-
glucagon-receptor antagonist in diabetic animals, and
vated PC flux and OAA pool observed in diabetic
that forms the next phase of our research.
mice must have also catered to the increased FAS
HEPATOLOGY, Vol. 57, No. 2, 2013
demand. This agrees with our recent observation in
than fasted, in part because of the abundance of other
the hypertrophied heart, in which a larger 13C-citrate
alternative metabolic substrates in the circulation (e.g.,
signal (from increased pyruvate anaplerosis) was
unlabeled pyruvate), which limits the uptake of the
recorded.28 Moreover, detection of citrate pool with
infused hyperpolarized 13C-labeled pyruvate. This ob-
hyperpolarized [2-13C]pyruvate substrate has recently
servation is observed in the lower metabolite peaks in
been demonstrated to be feasible in the study of myo-
the spectrum of fed mice (Supporting Fig. 3A).
cardial TCA flux29; therefore, similar measurements in
In summary, we demonstrate the application of
the insulin-resistant liver will undoubtedly aid in vali-
hyperpolarized 13C MRS in probing metabolic events
dating the hypothesis that an enlarged citrate pool sup-
in the liver and its correlation with enzyme activities.
ports FAS. Metformin is used clinically to counter ele-
We identify an important role of the PC pathway in
vated FAS and gluconeogenesis in diabetes, primarily
the development of hyperglycemia and diabetes. We
through its activation of adenosine-monophosphate–
also demonstrated the capability of this technique to
activated protein kinase.30 In this study, we demon-
probe changes in hepatic metabolism upon therapeutic
strated that metformin treatment leads to reduced
intervention, paving the way for longitudinal assess-
HGP by, at least in part, decreasing PC activity, as
well as production of malate and aspartate from
exchange rates and hepatic enzyme activities illustrates
the potential of these indices as biomarkers of liver
The advent of hyperpolarized 13C MRS has enabled
function in diabetes and a wide range of other
visualization of real-time metabolism in the in vivo
mouse liver, in particular, the anaplerosis of pyruvate
The authors thank Dr. Hongyu
into the TCA cycle. The distinct patterns in down-
Li for technical assistance in the glucose and insulin
stream metabolite progression suggest that hyperpolar-
ized 13C MRS is sensitive to subtle differences in met-abolic conversions. It is worth noting that LDH-,ALT-, MDH-, and AST-mediated conversions are re-
versible. Therefore, the appearance of lactate, alanine,
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Caregiver Lifeline Program Resources for Transplant Families This document is a good starting point for identifying potential transplant-related resources for patients, their caregivers and families. We've included a variety of information about transplant, transplant fundraising resources, grant assistance providers, travel assistance, prescription coverage, and living donor support.
A simple (ish) guide to the Psychoactive Substances Bill Date: 15/12/2015 What is it?: A Bill that, if it becomes law, will make it an offence to produce, supply or offer to supply any psychoactive substance with the exemption of nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and medicinal products.1,2 The main intention of the Bill is to shut down shops and websites that