Biomedical Importance

Although fatty acids are both oxidized to acetyl-CoA and synthesized from acetyl-CoA, fatty acid oxidation is not the simple reverse of fatty acid biosynthesis but an entirely different process taking place in a separate compartment of the cell. The separation of fatty acid oxidation in mitochondria from biosynthesis in the cytosol allows each process to be individually controlled and integrated with tissue requirements. Each step in fatty acid oxidation involves acyl-CoA derivatives catalyzed by separate enzymes, utilizes NAD+ and FAD as coenzymes, and generates ATP. It is an aerobic process, requiring the presence of oxygen.

Increased fatty acid oxidation is a characteristic of starvation and of diabetes mellitus, leading to ketone body production by the liver (ketosis). Ketone bodies are acidic and when produced in excess over long periods, as in diabetes, cause ketoacidosis, which is ultimately fatal. Because gluconeogenesis is dependent upon fatty acid oxidation, any impairment in fatty acid oxidation leads to hypoglycemia. This occurs in various states of carnitine deficiency or deficiency of essential enzymes in fatty acid oxidation, eg, carnitine palmitoyltransferase, or inhibition of fatty acid oxidation by poisons, eg, hypoglycin.

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