Influence of valproic acid on the expression of various acyl-CoA dehydrogenases in rats


Masayoshi Nagao National Otaru Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, 3–24–1 Nagahashi, Otaru, Hokkaido 047–0036, Japan. Email: <>


AbstractBackground: Valproic acid (2-propyl-N-pentanoic acid, VPA) causes severe hepatic dysfunction, similar to Reye’s syndrome, in a small number of patients. An enhanced excretion of dicarboxylic acids by patients indicates an interference with mitochondrial β-oxidation. We investigated the expression of various acyl-coenzyme A (acyl-CoA) dehydrogenases (ACD), which catalyze the first step of β-oxidation in VPA-treated rats.

Methods: The control group received normal saline and the experimental group received VPA (500 mg/kg per day) by intraperitoneal injections for 7 days. Various clinical chemistry parameters in rat blood and free and total carnitine levels in plasma and tissue were determined. Mitochondria were isolated from rat liver and heart and the relative amount of each ACD protein was determined by immunoblot analysis. Total RNA was prepared from various tissues and the mRNA levels for various ACD were measured by slot-blot hybridization analysis using respective cDNA probes.

Results: Administration of VPA to rats caused various metabolic effects including hypoglycemia, hyperammonemia and decreased β-hydroxybutyrate concentration. Free carnitine levels in plasma and heart were also decreased. Enzyme activities of various acyl-CoA dehydrogenases, which are involved in fatty acid oxidation, decreased moderately in heart (57–79%), and slightly in liver (78–95%). The most prominent effects were observed in mRNA levels involved in fatty acid oxidation (short-, medium- and long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase). Each mRNA increased in the liver, kidney, skeletal muscle and heart to varying degrees when rats were fed ad libitum. The increase of short- and medium- chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase mRNA in the heart were particularly large. However, 3 day starvation strongly inhibited expression of ACD in VPA-treated rats. There was an apparent decrease in the amount of ACD mRNA and proteins in VPA-treated liver.

Conclusions: Valproic acid causes enhanced expression of fatty ACD mRNA, especially in the heart, by a feedback mechanism related to inhibition of β-oxidation in rats fed ad libitum. However, it impairs the expression of ACD in the liver when there is a drastic change in nutritional state.