Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary The transplacental supply of nutrients is interrupted at birth, which diverts maternal metabolism to lactation. After birth, energy homeostasis is rapidly regained through milk nutrients which supply the newborn with the fatty acids and ketone bodies required for neonatal development. However, immediately after birth and before the onset of suckling there is a time lapse in which the newborn undergoes a unique kind of starvation. During this period glucose is scarce and ketone bodies are not available owing to the delay in ketogenesis. Under these circumstances, the newborn is supplied with another metabolic fuel, lactate, which is utilized as a source of energy and carbon skeletons. Neonatal rat lung, heart, liver and brain utilize lactate for energy production and lipogenesis. Lactate is also utilized by the brain of human babies with type I glycogenosis. Both rat neurons and astrocytes in primary culture actively use lactate as an oxidizable substrate and as a precursor of phospholipids and sterols. Lactate oxidation is enhanced by dichloroacetate, an inhibitor of the pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase in neurons but not in astrocytes, suggesting that the pyruvate dehydrogenase is regulated differently in each type of cell. Despite the low activity of this enzyme in newborn brain, pyruvate decarboxylation is the main fate of glucose in both neurons and astrocytes. The occurrence of a yeast-like pyruvate decarboxylase activity in neonatal brain may explain these results.
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