Isotopic evaluation of the metabolism of pyruvate and related substrates in normal adult volunteers and severely burned children: Effect of dichloroacetate and glucose infusion

R. R. Wolfe, F. Jahoor, D. N. Herndon, H. Miyoshi

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In this study we have assessed the hypothesis that there is a postreceptor defect in glucose metabolism that makes the severely burned patient unable to oxidize glucose efficiently as an energy source. The intracellular pyruvate pool was labeled by the infusion of 3-13C-lactate, and expired CO2 production and isotopic enrichment of both pyruvate and CO2 were determined to calculate the rate of pyruvate production and oxidation. 6,6-d2-Glucose and 15N-alanine were infused simultaneously to relate pyruvate kinetics and oxidation to glucose and alanine kinetics. Five normal volunteers and 10 severely burned patients (mean of 80% ± 5% body surface burned) were studied in the basal state and during continuous (unlabeled) glucose infusion. Also, the effect of dichloroacetate, which normally stimulates pyruvate dehydrogenase activity, was assessed in both volunteers and patients. The burned patients had many of the classic metabolic responses to severe injury, including significant increases in resting energy expenditure, glucose production, and alanine release from protein breakdown. However, rather than being inhibited, the rate of pyruvate oxidation was increased approximately 300% in burned patients. Although the patients had an elevated mean concentration of lactate, stemming from increased lactate production, no deficit in pyruvate dehydrogenase activity was evident. Rather, the high rate of lactate production was apparently a consequence of the high rate of glycolysis. On the other hand, the direct pathway for synthesis of glycogen from infused glucose appeared to be impaired in burned patients. In both volunteers and patients, dichloroacetate stimulated the percent of pyruvate directed to oxidation, thereby reducing the conversion of pyruvate to other fates, including lactate. However, because there was no deficit in pyruvate dehydrogenase activity in the patients compared with normal volunteers before dichloroacetate treatment, no unique effect of dichloroacetate on glucose or protein kinetics was observed in burned patients. From these results we conclude that if there is a postreceptor defect in glucose metabolism in burned patients, it involves the pathway of direct glycogen synthesis and not the pathway of oxidation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-67
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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