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PLoS One. 2015 Mar 27;10(3):e0122818. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122818. eCollection 2015.

The extracellular redox state modulates mitochondrial function, gluconeogenesis, and glycogen synthesis in murine hepatocytes.

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Department of Medicine, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.


Circulating redox state changes, determined by the ratio of reduced/oxidized pairs of different metabolites, have been associated with metabolic diseases. However, the pathogenic contribution of these changes and whether they modulate normal tissue function is unclear. As alterations in hepatic gluconeogenesis and glycogen metabolism are hallmarks that characterize insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, we tested whether imposed changes in the extracellular redox state could modulate these processes. Thus, primary hepatocytes were treated with different ratios of the following physiological extracellular redox couples: β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB)/acetoacetate (Acoc), reduced glutathione (GSH)/oxidized glutathione (GSSG), and cysteine/cystine. Exposure to a more oxidized ratio via extracellular βOHB/Acoc, GSH/GSSG, and cysteine/cystine in hepatocytes from fed mice increased intracellular hydrogen peroxide without causing oxidative damage. On the other hand, addition of more reduced ratios of extracellular βOHB/Acoc led to increased NAD(P)H and maximal mitochondrial respiratory capacity in hepatocytes. Greater βOHB/Acoc ratios were also associated with decreased β-oxidation, as expected with enhanced lipogenesis. In hepatocytes from fasted mice, a more extracellular reduced state of βOHB/Acoc led to increased alanine-stimulated gluconeogenesis and enhanced glycogen synthesis capacity from added glucose. Thus, we demonstrated for the first time that the extracellular redox state regulates the major metabolic functions of the liver and involves changes in intracellular NADH, hydrogen peroxide, and mitochondrial respiration. Because redox state in the blood can be communicated to all metabolically sensitive tissues, this work confirms the hypothesis that circulating redox state may be an important regulator of whole body metabolism and contribute to alterations associated with metabolic diseases.

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