Seizure Control by Derivatives of Medium Chain Fatty Acids Associated with the Ketogenic Diet Show Novel Branching-Point Structure for Enhanced Potency

Pishan Chang, Alexandra Zuckermann, Williams Sophie, Close, Adam J, Cano-Jaimez, Marife , James McEvoy, John Spencer, Matthew C. Walker, Robin Williams

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The medium chain triglyceride (MCT) ketogenic diet is a major treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy but is problematic, particularly in adults, because of poor tolerability. Branched derivatives of octanoic acid (OA), a medium chain fat provided in the diet have been suggested as potential new treatments for drug-resistant epilepsy, but the structural basis of this functionality has not been determined. Here we investigate structural variants of branched medium chain fatty acids as new seizure-control treatments. We initially employ a series of methyl-branched OA derivatives, and using the GABAA receptor antagonist pentylenetetrazol to induce seizure-like activity in rat hippocampal slices, we show a strong, branch-point–specific activity that improves upon the related epilepsy treatment valproic acid. Using low magnesium conditions to induce glutamate excitotoxicity in rat primary hippocampal neuronal cultures for the assessment of neuroprotection, we also show a structural dependence identical to that for seizure control, suggesting a related mechanism of action for these compounds in both seizure control and neuroprotection. In contrast, the effect of these compounds on histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibition, associated with teratogenicity, shows no correlation with therapeutic efficacy. Furthermore, small structural modifications of the starting compounds provide active compounds without HDAC inhibitory effects. Finally, using multiple in vivo seizure models, we identify potent lead candidates for the treatment of epilepsy. This study therefore identifies a novel family of fatty acids, related to the MCT ketogenic diet, that show promise as new treatments for epilepsy control and possibly other MCT ketogenic diet-responding conditions, such as Alzheimer disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-52
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number1
Early online date17 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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