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Dev Neurosci. 1991;13(6):403-11.

N-acetyl-L-aspartate is a major source of acetyl groups for lipid synthesis during rat brain development.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Berne, Switzerland.


The function of N-acetyl-L-aspartate (NAA), a predominant substance in the CNS, has not yet been determined. To investigate the possible function of NAA as a lipid precursor [14C]-N-acetyl-L-aspartate (NAA) or [14C]-acetate (AcA) was injected intracerebrally into 8, 15- and 22-day-old rats. These time points were selected because NAA concentration and the activity of the NAA synthetizing enzyme L-aspartate-N-acetyltransferase (ANAT) were low in 8-day-old rats, intermediate in 15-day-old rats and high in 22-day-old rats. During an incubation period of 4 h the radioactive acetyl group of NAA is incorporated into the lipid fraction in amounts of 42.9 to 65.7% of recovered total radioactivity, increasing with the age of the rats. In contrast, radioactivity incorporated from AcA is constant for all three ages. With NAA as precursor only 7.2-9.4% of the recovered total radioactivity is incorporated into the protein fraction. With AcA as precursor 27.0-18.1% of recovered radioactivity is incorporated into the protein fraction, the amounts decreasing with age. Taking into account that in vivo NAA concentration in the brain is much higher than the AcA concentration, NAA is clearly the more efficient precursor for lipid synthesis than AcA. Further, we compared NAA and AcA as lipid precursors by analyzing the radioactivity in single lipid fractions, expressed as normalized specific incorporation or normalized incorporation. The measured differences between NAA and AcA in normalized specific and normalized incorporation of acetyl groups imply that NAA is not simply degraded to AcA before incorporated into lipids. We conclude that NAA is a major source of acetyl groups for lipid synthesis during rat brain development.

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