A minimal model for hepatic fatty acid balance during fasting: application to PPAR alpha-deficient mice.


The purpose of this study is to identify the hierarchy of importance amongst pathways involved in fatty acid (FA) metabolism and their regulators in the control of hepatic FA composition. A modeling approach was applied to experimental data obtained during fasting in PPARalpha knockout (KO) mice and wild-type mice. A step-by-step procedure was used in which a very simple model was completed by additional pathways until the model fitted correctly the measured quantities of FA in the liver. The resulting model included FA uptake by the liver, FA oxidation, elongation and desaturation of FA, which were found active in both genotypes during fasting. From the model analysis we concluded that PPARalpha had a strong effect on FA oxidation. There were no indications that this effect changes during the fasting period, and it was thus considered to be constant. In PPARalpha KO mice, FA uptake was identified as the main pathway responsible for FA variation in the liver. The models showed that FA were oxidized at a constant and small rate, whereas desaturation of FA also occurred during fasting. The latter observation was rather unexpected, but was confirmed experimentally by the measurement of delta-6-desaturase mRNA using real-time quantitative PCR (QPCR). These results confirm that mathematical models can be a useful tool in identifying new biological hypotheses and nutritional routes in metabolism.

Journal of theoretical biology