Glycogen Storage Disease Type I - Metabolic Pathophysiology - Normal Carbohydrate Balance and Maintenance of Blood Glucose Levels

Normal Carbohydrate Balance and Maintenance of Blood Glucose Levels

Glycogen in liver and (to a lesser degree) kidneys serves as a form of stored, rapidly accessible glucose, so that the blood glucose level can be maintained between meals. For about 3 hours after a carbohydrate-containing meal, high insulin levels direct liver cells to take glucose from the blood, to convert it to glucose-6-phosphate (G6P), and to add the G6P molecules to the ends of chains of glycogen (glycogen synthesis). Excess G6P is also shunted into production of triglycerides and exported for storage in adipose tissue as fat.

When digestion of a meal is complete, insulin levels fall, and enzyme systems in the liver cells begin to remove glucose molecules from strands of glycogen in the form of G6P. This process is termed glycogenolysis. The G6P remains within the liver cell unless the phosphate is cleaved by glucose-6-phosphatase. This dephosphorylation reaction produces free glucose and free PO4 anions. The free glucose molecules can be transported out of the liver cells into the blood to maintain an adequate supply of glucose to the brain and other organs of the body. Glycogenolysis can supply the glucose needs of an adult body for 12–18 hours.

When fasting continues for more than a few hours, falling insulin levels permit catabolism of muscle protein and triglycerides from adipose tissue. The products of these processes are amino acids (mainly alanine), free fatty acids, and lactic acid. Free fatty acids from triglycerides are converted to ketones, and to acetyl-CoA. Amino acids and lactic acid are used to synthesize new G6P in liver cells by the process of gluconeogenesis. The last step of normal gluconeogenesis, like the last step of glycogenolysis, is the dephosphorylation of G6P by glucose-6-phosphatase to free glucose and PO4.

Thus glucose-6-phosphatase mediates the final, key, step in both of the two main processes of glucose production during fasting. In fact the effect is amplified because the resulting high levels of glucose-6-phosphate inhibit earlier key steps in both glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis.

Read more about this topic:  Glycogen Storage Disease Type I, Metabolic Pathophysiology

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