A Dietary Ketone Ester Normalizes Abnormal Behavior in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Feb 4;21(3):1044. doi: 10.3390/ijms21031044.


Because of a decreased sensitivity toward insulin, a key regulator of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), Alzheimer's patients have lower brain glucose utilization with reductions in Tricarboxylic Acid (TCA) cycle metabolites such as citrate, a precursor to n-acetyl-aspartate. In the 3xTgAd mouse model of Alzheimer's disease (AD), aging mice also demonstrate low brain glucose metabolism. Ketone metabolism can overcome PDH inhibition and restore TCA cycle metabolites, thereby enhancing amino acid biosynthesis. A ketone ester of d-β-hydroxybutyrate was incorporated into a diet (Ket) and fed to 3xTgAd mice. A control group was fed a calorically matched diet (Cho). At 15 months of age, the exploratory and avoidance-related behavior patterns of the mice were evaluated. At 16.5 months of age, the animals were euthanized, and their hippocampi were analyzed for citrate, α-ketoglutarate, and amino acids. In the hippocampi of the Ket-fed mice, there were higher concentrations of citrate and α-ketoglutarate as well as higher concentrations of glutamate, aspartate and n-acetyl-aspartate compared with controls. There were positive associations between (1) concentrations of aspartate and n-acetyl-aspartate (n = 14, R = 0.9327), and (2) α-ketoglutarate and glutamate (n = 14, R = 0.8521) in animals maintained on either diet. Hippocampal n-acetyl-aspartate predicted the outcome of several exploratory and avoidance-related behaviors. Ketosis restored citrate and α-ketoglutarate in the hippocampi of aging mice. Higher concentrations of n-acetyl-aspartate corresponded with greater exploratory activity and reduced avoidance-related behavior.

Keywords: TCA cycle; anxiety; glucose metabolism; hippocampus; insulin; ketone bodies; ketosis; mitochondria; n-acetyl-aspartate; pyruvate dehydrogenase.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Citric Acid Cycle / physiology
  • Diet
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Esters / metabolism*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Ketone Bodies / metabolism
  • Ketones / metabolism*
  • Ketosis / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice


  • Esters
  • Ketone Bodies
  • Ketones
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Glutamic Acid
  • N-acetylaspartate
  • Glucose