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Ketogenic diets, used in epilepsy treatment, are considered to work through reduced glucose and ketone generation to regulate a range of cellular process including autophagy induction. Recent studies into the medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) ketogenic diet have suggested that medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) provided in the diet, decanoic acid and octanoic acid, cause specific therapeutic effects independent of glucose reduction, although a role in autophagy has not been investigated. Both autophagy and MCFAs have been widely studied in Dictyostelium, with findings providing important advances in the study of autophagy-related pathologies such as neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we utilize this model to analyze a role for MCFAs in regulating autophagy. We show that treatment with decanoic acid but not octanoic acid induces autophagosome formation and modulates autophagic flux in high glucose conditions. To investigate this effect, decanoic acid, but not octanoic acid, was found to induce the expression of autophagy-inducing proteins (Atg1 and Atg8), providing a mechanism for this effect. Finally, we demonstrate a range of related fatty acid derivatives with seizure control activity, 4BCCA, 4EOA, and Epilim (valproic acid), also function to induce autophagosome formation in this model. Thus, our data suggest that decanoic acid and related compounds may provide a less-restrictive therapeutic approach to activate autophagy.
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