Glucose and alanine metabolism in children with maple syrup urine disease

J Clin Invest. 1978 Aug;62(2):398-405. doi: 10.1172/JCI109141.


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 alpha-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 muM vs. 155+/-18 muM 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 muM vs. 495+/-27 muM 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. Alanine flux rates in two patients with classical MSUD (3.76 and 4.00 mumol/Kg per min) and the patient with partial MSUD (5.76 mumol/Kg per min) were clearly lower than those of the controls (11.72+/-2.53 [SD] mumol/Kg per min). After short-term starvation, glucose flux and fasting concentrations were similar in the MSUD patients and normal subjects.These data indicate that branched chain amino acid catabolism is an important rate limiting event for alanine production in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alanine / metabolism*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Maple Syrup Urine Disease / metabolism*


  • Glucose
  • Alanine