On the mammalian acetone metabolism: From chemistry to clinical implications

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Despite the description of the ways of acetone metabolism, its real role(s) is (are) still unknown in metabolic network. In this article, a trial is made to ascertain a comprehensive overview of acetone research extending discussion from chemistry to clinical implications. Mammals are quite similar regarding their acetone metabolism, even if species differences can also be observed. By reviewing experimental data, it seems that plasma concentration of acetone in different species is in the order of 10 μm range and the concentration-dependent acetone metabolism is common to all mammals. At low concentrations of plasma acetone, the C3 pathways are operative, while at higher concentrations, the metabolism through acetate becomes dominant. Glucose formation from acetone may also contribute to the maintenance of a constant blood glucose level, but it seems to be only a minor source for that. From energetical point of view, an interorgan cooperation is suggested because transportable C3 fragments produced in the liver can serve as alternative sources of energy for the peripheral tissues in the short of circulating glucose. The degradation of acetoacetate to acetone contributes to the maintenance of pH buffering capacity, as well. Special attention is paid to the discussion of acetone production in diseases amongst which endogenous and exogenous acetonemiae have been defined. Acetonemiae of endogenous origin are due to the increased rate of acetone production followed by an increase of degrading capacity as cytochrome P450IIE1 (CYPIIE1) isozymes become induced. Exogenous acetonemiae usually resulted from intoxications caused by either acetone itself or other exogenous compounds (ethanol, isopropyl alcohol). It is highlighted that, on the one hand, isopropanol is also a normal constituent of metabolism and, on the other hand, the flat opinion that the elevation of its plasma level is a sign of alcoholism cannot further be held. The possible future directions of research upon acetone are depicted by emphasizing the need for the clear-cut identification of mammalian acetoacetate decarboxylase, and the investigation of race differences and genetic background of acetone metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-139
Number of pages18
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2 2003



  • Acetol
  • Acetone
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Fasting
  • Gluconeogenesis
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Methylglyoxal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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