Sunday, September 22, 2019

Recurrent loss of HMGCS2 shows that ketogenesis is not essential for the evolution of large mammalian brains.

Apart from glucose, fatty acid-derived ketone bodies provide metabolic energy for the brain during fasting and neonatal development. We investigated the evolution of HMGCS2, the key enzyme required for ketone body biosynthesis (ketogenesis). Unexpectedly, we found that three mammalian lineages, comprising cetaceans (dolphins and whales), elephants and mastodons, and Old World fruit bats have lost this gene. Remarkably, many of these species have exceptionally large brains and signs of intelligent behavior. While fruit bats are sensitive to starvation, cetaceans and elephants can still withstand periods of fasting. This suggests that alternative strategies to fuel large brains during fasting evolved repeatedly…

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