The anticonvulsant activity of acetone, the major ketone body in the ketogenic diet, is not dependent on its metabolites acetol, 1,2-propanediol, methylglyoxal, or pyruvic acid.

PMID 17386058


Acetone, one of the principal ketone bodies elevated during treatment with the ketogenic diet, exhibits anticonvulsant properties that may contribute to the seizure protection conferred by the diet. The anticonvulsant mechanism of acetone is unknown, but it is metabolized to several bioactive substances that could play a role. Acetone and its major metabolites-acetol, 1,2-propanediol, methylglyoxal, and pyruvic acid-were assessed for anticonvulsant activity in two mouse seizure models. Various doses of the substances administered intraperitoneally were characterized for their ability to elevate the threshold for clonic seizures induced by intravenous infusion of pentylenetetrazol (PTZ) and for protection against tonic seizures induced by subcutaneous bolus administration of 4-aminopyridine (4-AP). The inverted-screen test was used to assess acute neurological toxicity. Acetone (1-32 mmol/kg, i.p.), in a dose-dependent fashion, elevated the PTZ threshold and conferred protection against 4-AP seizures (ED(50), 26.3 mmol/kg). Effective doses of acetone (10-32 mmol/kg) did not cause motor impairment in the inverted-screen test (TD(50), 45.7 mmol/kg). In doses 10-fold greater than the minimally effective dose of acetone (3.2 mmol/kg), the metabolites acetol, 1,2-propanediol, and pyruvic acid were inactive in the PTZ model. At higher doses that produced motor impairment, acetol and 1,2-propanediol (but not pyruvic acid) did elevate the PTZ threshold. Methylglyoxal had both proconvulsant and anticonvulsant actions, and had substantial toxicity, producing respiratory distress, motor impairment, and death. None of the acetone metabolites protected against 4-AP seizures. This study confirms the broad-spectrum anticonvulsant properties of acetone and indicates that the seizure protection conferred is unlikely to result from its major metabolic products.

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