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Abstract

We reported previously that chronic administration of hydrocortisone to normal developing mice increases the brain glucose content and cerebral energy reserve. The present report concerns possible mechanisms of this action. Increases in brain glucose (and glycogen) levels were not due to reduction of cerebral metabolic rate, and the effect of hydrocortisone in facilitating transport of hexose from blood to brain was not impressive. Chronic hydrocortisone treatment induced increases in the activities of brain glycerophosphate dehydrogenase and pyruvate carboxylase in vivo; there was no effect on eleven other enzymes of brain glucose and glycogen metabolism. In normal nursing mice, hydrocortisone produced consistent elevations in plasma β-hydroxybutyrate (and glycerol) levels. Brain β-hydroxybutyrate levels were also increased. Therefore, the brain glucose concentration may be elevated in these animals because of the availability of an increased supply of ketone bodies as alternative substrates for cerebral oxidative metabolism and biosynthesis. Ketonemia, elevated cerebral glucose and β-hydroxybutyrate concentrations, and increased glycerophosphate dehydrogenase activity in brain suggest possible explanations for the beneficial action of adrenocorticotropic hormone and glucocorticoids in the treatment of infantile myoclonic epilepsy and other neurological disorders.