Impaired growth and neurological abnormalities in branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase kinase-deficient mice

Mandar A. Joshi, Nam Ho Jeoung, Mariko Obayashi, Eyas M. Hattab, Eric G. Brocken, Edward A. Liechty, Michael J. Kubek, Krishna M. Vahem, Ronald C. Wek, Robert A. Harris

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The BCKDH (branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase complex) catalyses the rate-limiting step in the oxidation of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids). Activity of the complex is regulated by a specific kinase, BDK (BCKDH kinase), which causes inactivation, and a phosphatase, BDP (BCKDH phosphatase), which causes activation. In the present study, the effect of the disruption of the BDK gene on growth and development of mice was investigated. BCKDH activity was much greater in most tissues of BDK-/- mice. This occurred in part because the E1 component of the complex cannot be phosphorylated due to the absence of BDK and also because greater than normal amounts of the E1 component were present in tissues of BDK-/- mice. Lack of control of BCKDH activity resulted in markedly lower blood and tissue levels of the BCAAs in BDK-/- mice. At 12 weeks of age, BDK-/- mice were 15% smaller than wild-type mice and their fur lacked normal lustre. Brain, muscle and adipose tissue weights were reduced, whereas weights of the liver and kidney were greater. Neurological abnormalities were apparent by hind limb flexion throughout life and epileptic seizures after 6-7 months of age. Inhibition of protein synthesis in the brain due to hyperphosphorylation of eIF2α (eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α) might contribute to the neurological abnormalities seen in BDK-/- mice. BDK-/- mice show significant improvement in growth and appearance when fed a high protein diet, suggesting that higher amounts of dietary BCAA can partially compensate for increased oxidation in BDK-/- mice. Disruption of the BDK gene establishes that regulation of BCKDH by phosphorylation is critically important for the regulation of oxidative disposal of BCAAs. The phenotype of the BDK-/- mice demonstrates the importance of tight regulation of oxidative disposal of BCAAs for normal growth and neurological function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-162
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 15 2006



  • BDK knockout mice
  • Branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase complex
  • Branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase complex kinase (BDK)
  • Branched-chain amino acid
  • Epilepsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry

Cite this

Joshi, M. A., Jeoung, N. H., Obayashi, M., Hattab, E. M., Brocken, E. G., Liechty, E. A., Kubek, M. J., Vahem, K. M., Wek, R. C., & Harris, R. A. (2006). Impaired growth and neurological abnormalities in branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase kinase-deficient mice. Biochemical Journal, 400(1), 153-162.