Ketosis is a metabolic adaptation to fasting, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and prolonged exercise. β-OH butyrate acts as a transcriptional regulator and at G protein-coupled receptors to modulate cellular signaling pathways in a hormone-like manner. While physiological ketosis is often adaptive, chronic hyperketonemia may contribute to the metabolic dysfunction of NAFLD. To understand how β-OH butyrate signalling affects hepatic metabolism, we compared the hepatic fasting response in control and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA synthase II (HMGCS2) knockdown mice that are unable to elevate β-OH butyrate production. To establish that rescue of ketone metabolic/endocrine signaling would restore the normal hepatic fasting response, we gave intraperitoneal injections of β-OH butyrate (5.7 mmol/kg) to HMGCS2 knockdown and control mice every 2 h for the final 9 h of a 16-h fast. In hypoketonemic, HMGCS2 knockdown mice, fasting more robustly increased mRNA expression of uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2), a protein critical for supporting fatty acid oxidation and ketogenesis. In turn, exogenous β-OH butyrate administration to HMGCS2 knockdown mice decreased fasting UCP2 mRNA expression to that observed in control mice. Also supporting feedback at the transcriptional level, β-OH butyrate lowered the fasting-induced expression of HMGCS2 mRNA in control mice. β-OH butyrate also regulates the glycemic response to fasting. The fast-induced fall in serum glucose was absent in HMGCS2 knockdown mice but was restored by β-OH butyrate administration. These data propose that endogenous β-OH butyrate signaling transcriptionally regulates hepatic fatty acid oxidation and ketogenesis, while modulating glucose tolerance. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Ketogenesis regulates whole body glucose metabolism and β-OH butyrate produced by the liver feeds back to inhibit hepatic β-oxidation and ketogenesis during fasting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G623-G631
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Fasting
  • Gluconeogenesis
  • Ketogenesis
  • β-OH butyrate
  • β-oxidation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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