Suppression of Oxidative Stress by β-Hydroxybutyrate, an Endogenous Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor

Science  11 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6116, pp. 211-214
DOI: 10.1126/science.1227166

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Stress Protector

During prolonged fasting, the oxidation of fatty acids leads to increased accumulation of d-β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB) in the bloodstream. Such increased concentrations of βOHB inhibit class I histone deacetylases. Histone acetylation in turn influences transcriptional activity at various genes. Shimazu et al. (p. 211, published online 6 December; see the Perspective by Sassone-Corsi) found that among the genes showing increased transcription in animals treated with high concentrations of βOHB were two genes implicated in cellular responses to oxidative stress. When treated ahead of time with βOHB, mice were protected from the toxic effects of the oxidative stress causing poison paraquat.


Concentrations of acetyl–coenzyme A and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) affect histone acetylation and thereby couple cellular metabolic status and transcriptional regulation. We report that the ketone body d-β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB) is an endogenous and specific inhibitor of class I histone deacetylases (HDACs). Administration of exogenous βOHB, or fasting or calorie restriction, two conditions associated with increased βOHB abundance, all increased global histone acetylation in mouse tissues. Inhibition of HDAC by βOHB was correlated with global changes in transcription, including that of the genes encoding oxidative stress resistance factors FOXO3A and MT2. Treatment of cells with βOHB increased histone acetylation at the Foxo3a and Mt2 promoters, and both genes were activated by selective depletion of HDAC1 and HDAC2. Consistent with increased FOXO3A and MT2 activity, treatment of mice with βOHB conferred substantial protection against oxidative stress.

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