Ketone Body Metabolism MCQ and Clinical Case

 A. Clinical Case on Ketosis

Patient Profile:

A 45-year-old male with a history of type 2 diabetes presents to the emergency department with complaints of increasing weakness, fatigue, excessive thirst, and frequent urination over the past few days. He also reports abdominal pain and a fruity odor on his breath.

Clinical Presentation:

  • The patient appears dehydrated and has rapid breathing (Kussmaul breathing).
  • Physical examination reveals dry mucous membranes and tachycardia.
  • The patient's breath has a characteristic fruity odor.

Biochemical Investigation:

  • Blood glucose level: 400 mg/dL (high)
  • Arterial blood gas (ABG) analysis:
  • pH: 7.25 (low)
  • pCO2: 20 mmHg (low)
  • HCO3-: 10 mEq/L (low)
  • Serum ketones (beta-hydroxybutyrate): 6.0 mmol/L (elevated)
  • Serum electrolytes:
  • Sodium (Na+): 138 mEq/L
  • Potassium (K+): 4.8 mEq/L
  • Chloride (Cl-): 100 mEq/L
  • Bicarbonate (HCO3-): 10 mEq/L

Interpretation and Diagnosis:

  • The elevated blood glucose level (hyperglycemia) and ketones in the blood (ketonemia) indicate uncontrolled diabetes and the presence of ketoacidosis.
  • The decreased blood pH, low bicarbonate level, and low pCO2 in the ABG analysis suggest metabolic acidosis.
  • The fruity odor on the patient's breath is due to acetone, one of the ketone bodies, which is released in breath during ketoacidosis.
  • The patient is diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening complication of uncontrolled diabetes.


Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs when there's a severe insulin deficiency, causing the body to break down fats for energy. This leads to the accumulation of ketone bodies (acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate), resulting in metabolic acidosis. The hallmark signs include hyperglycemia, ketonemia, metabolic acidosis, and dehydration. The fruity breath odor is due to the presence of acetone, a volatile ketone.

In this case, the patient's uncontrolled diabetes likely resulted in insulin deficiency, leading to increased gluconeogenesis, lipolysis, and ketone body production. The elevated ketone levels caused metabolic acidosis, which contributed to the patient's symptoms of weakness, rapid breathing, and abdominal pain. Immediate medical intervention, including insulin administration and fluid resuscitation, is crucial to correct the acid-base imbalance, normalize glucose and electrolyte levels, and prevent further complications.

This case illustrates the importance of glycemic control in diabetic patients to prevent the development of diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening condition.

B. Multiple Choice Questions on Ketone Body Metabolism

1. Ketone bodies are produced primarily in which organ?

a) Liver

b) Kidneys

c) Brain

d) Muscle

Answer: a) Liver

Explanation: Ketone bodies, including acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone, are primarily produced in the liver during periods of prolonged fasting, low carbohydrate intake, or uncontrolled diabetes.

2. Which of the following situations would likely lead to increased ketone body production?

a) High carbohydrate intake

b) High insulin levels

c) Prolonged fasting

d) Excessive protein consumption

Answer: c) Prolonged fasting

Explanation: During prolonged fasting or low carbohydrate intake, the body's glucose reserves are depleted, and the liver increases ketone body production as an alternative energy source.

3. What is the primary tissue that utilizes ketone bodies for energy?

a) Brain

b) Liver

c) Skeletal muscle

d) Kidneys

Answer: a) Brain

Explanation: The brain is a major consumer of ketone bodies, especially during periods of glucose scarcity. Ketone bodies can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide an important energy source for the brain.

4. Which enzyme catalyzes the conversion of acetoacetate to beta-hydroxybutyrate?

a) Acetoacetate dehydrogenase

b) HMG-CoA synthase

c) 3-Hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase

d) Pyruvate carboxylase

Answer: c) 3-Hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase

Explanation: 3-Hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase converts acetoacetate to beta-hydroxybutyrate in the mitochondria of cells, utilizing NADH as a coenzyme.

5. Ketone bodies are synthesized from which molecule in the liver?

a) Glucose

b) Fatty acids

c) Amino acids

d) Glycogen

Answer: b) Fatty acids

Explanation: During periods of low carbohydrate intake, fatty acids are broken down in the liver to generate acetyl-CoA, which is then converted into ketone bodies.

6. Which of the following conditions can lead to the accumulation of ketone bodies, potentially resulting in ketoacidosis?

a) High carbohydrate diet

b) High insulin levels

c) Prolonged exercise

d) Uncontrolled diabetes

Answer: d) Uncontrolled diabetes

Explanation: In uncontrolled diabetes, insulin deficiency or resistance leads to elevated blood glucose levels. The lack of insulin prevents cells from utilizing glucose, and the body resorts to breaking down fats, leading to excessive ketone body production and ketoacidosis.

7. Which ketone body is volatile and can be detected in the breath of individuals with ketosis or ketoacidosis?

a) Acetoacetate

b) Beta-hydroxybutyrate

c) Acetone

d) Butyrate

Answer: c) Acetone

Explanation: Acetone is a ketone body that is volatile and can be detected in the breath. Its presence is responsible for the characteristic "fruity" odor associated with ketoacidosis.

8. In ketone body metabolism, what is the primary precursor for the synthesis of ketone bodies?

a) Pyruvate

b) Lactate

c) Glucose

d) Acetyl-CoA

Answer: d) Acetyl-CoA

Explanation: Acetyl-CoA, generated from the breakdown of fatty acids or ketogenic amino acids, serves as the primary precursor for the synthesis of ketone bodies in the liver.

9. Which of the following is a common physiological situation where ketone body production increases?

a) High carbohydrate intake

b) Well-controlled diabetes

c) Vigorous aerobic exercise

d) High protein intake

Answer: c) Vigorous aerobic exercise

Explanation: During intense aerobic exercise or endurance activities, the body's demand for energy may exceed the immediate availability of glucose. As a result, ketone body production can increase to provide an additional energy source.

10. Which of the following is a potential consequence of excessive ketone body production in ketoacidosis?

a) Increased insulin secretion

b) Decreased blood pH (acidosis)

c) Increased glycogen synthesis

d) Decreased lipid breakdown

Answer: b) Decreased blood pH (acidosis)

Explanation: Excessive production of ketone bodies can lead to an accumulation of acidic compounds in the blood, causing a decrease in blood pH and metabolic acidosis, a potentially serious condition seen in conditions like diabetic ketoacidosis

C. Ketogenesis Pathway

Ketogenesis is the process by which ketone bodies, such as acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate, are produced in the liver from fatty acids. This process occurs mainly during periods of prolonged fasting, low carbohydrate intake, or uncontrolled diabetes when glucose availability is limited. Here's an overview of the ketogenesis pathway:

1. Fatty Acid Breakdown:

  • In the absence of sufficient glucose, the body relies on stored fats as an alternative energy source.
  • Fatty acids are released from adipose tissue and transported to the liver.

2. Beta-Oxidation:

  • Within the liver mitochondria, fatty acids undergo beta-oxidation, a series of enzymatic reactions that break down fatty acids into two-carbon units (acetyl-CoA).
  • Acetyl-CoA enters the citric acid cycle (TCA cycle) to generate energy.

3. Excess Acetyl-CoA:

  • When there is an excess of acetyl-CoA and the TCA cycle is overwhelmed, the liver cannot fully oxidize all the acetyl-CoA.
  • As a result, the excess acetyl-CoA is diverted towards ketone body synthesis.

4. Formation of Acetoacetate:

  • Acetyl-CoA condenses to form acetoacetyl-CoA.
  • Acetoacetyl-CoA undergoes a thiolase-catalyzed reaction to form acetoacetate.

5. Formation of Beta-Hydroxybutyrate:

  • Some of the acetoacetate is reduced to beta-hydroxybutyrate by the enzyme beta-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase using NADH as a coenzyme.

6. Utilization of Ketone Bodies:

  • Ketone bodies, including acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate, are water-soluble and can travel in the bloodstream to peripheral tissues.
  • Extrahepatic tissues, especially the brain, heart, and skeletal muscles, can take up and utilize ketone bodies for energy.

7. Conversion to Acetone:

  • A small portion of acetoacetate spontaneously decarboxylates to form acetone, which is released into the breath and excreted in urine.
  • The presence of acetone contributes to the characteristic fruity breath odor observed in ketosis.

8. Regulation of Ketogenesis:

  • Insulin inhibits ketogenesis by reducing fatty acid release from adipose tissue and promoting glucose uptake and utilization.
  • Glucagon and cortisol stimulate ketogenesis by promoting lipolysis in adipose tissue and supplying fatty acids to the liver.