β-Hydroxybutyric acid, also known as 3-hydroxybutyric acid or BHB, is an organic compound and a beta hydroxy acid with the chemical formula CH3CH(OH)CH2CO2H; its conjugate base is β-hydroxybutyrate, also known as 3-hydroxybutyrate. β-Hydroxybutyric acid is a chiral compound with two enantiomers: D-β-hydroxybutyric acid and L-β-hydroxybutyric acid. Its oxidized and polymeric derivatives occur widely in nature. In humans, D-β-hydroxybutyric acid is one of two primary endogenous agonists of hydroxycarboxylic acid receptor 2 (HCA2), a Gi/o-coupled G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR).
|Preferred IUPAC name
3D model (JSmol)
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
|Molar mass||104.105 g·mol−1|
Related carboxylic acids
β-hydroxy β-methylbutyric acid
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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In humans, D-β-hydroxybutyrate can be synthesized in the liver via the metabolism of fatty acids (e.g., butyrate), β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate, and ketogenic amino acids through a series of reactions that metabolize these compounds into acetoacetate, which is the first ketone body that is produced in the fasting state. The biosynthesis of D-β-hydroxybutyrate from acetoacetate is catalyzed by the β-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase enzyme.
The last reaction in this metabolic pathway, which involves the conversion of D-β-(D-β-hydroxybutyryloxy)-butyrate into D-β-hydroxybutyrate, is catalyzed by the hydroxybutyrate-dimer hydrolase enzyme.
The concentration of β-hydroxybutyrate in human blood plasma, as with other ketone bodies, increases through ketosis. This elevated β-hydroxybutyrate level is naturally expected, as β-hydroxybutyrate is formed from acetoacetate. The compound can be used as an energy source by the brain when blood glucose is low. Diabetic patients can have their ketone levels tested via urine or blood to indicate diabetic ketoacidosis. In alcoholic ketoacidosis, this ketone body is produced in greatest concentration. Ketogenesis occurs if oxaloacetate in the liver cells is depleted, a circumstance created by reduced carbohydrate intake (through diet or starvation); prolonged, excessive alcohol consumption; and/or insulin deficiency. Because oxaloacetate is crucial for entry of acetyl-CoA into the TCA cycle, the rapid production of acetyl-CoA from fatty acid oxidation in the absence of ample oxaloacetate overwhelms the decreased capacity of the TCA cycle, and the resultant excess of acetyl-CoA is shunted towards ketone body production.
β-Hydroxybutyric acid is able to cross the blood-brain-barrier into the central nervous system. Levels of β-hydroxybutyric acid increase in the liver, heart, muscle, brain, and other tissues with exercise, calorie restriction, fasting, and ketogenic diets. The compound has been found to act as a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor. Through inhibition of the HDAC class I isoenzymes HDAC2 and HDAC3, β-hydroxybutyric acid has been found to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels and TrkB signaling in the hippocampus. Moreover, a rodent study found that prolonged exercise increases plasma β-hydroxybutyrate concentrations, which induces promoters of the BDNF gene in the hippocampus. These findings may have clinical relevance in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment.
In epilepsy patients on the ketogenic diet, blood β-hydroxybutyrate levels correlate best with degree of seizure control. The threshold for optimal anticonvulsant effect appears to be approximately 4 mmol/L.
Laboratory and industrial chemistryEdit
The concentration of β-hydroxybutyrate in blood plasma is measured through a test that uses β-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase, with NAD+ as an electron-accepting cofactor. The conversion of β-hydroxybutyrate to acetoacetate, which is catalyzed by this enzyme, reduces the NAD+ to NADH, generating an electrical change; the magnitude of this change can then be used to extrapolate the amount of β-hydroxybutyrate in the sample.
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Metabolic impairment diverts methylcrotonyl CoA to 3-hydroxyisovaleryl CoA in a reaction catalyzed by enoyl-CoA hydratase (22, 23). 3-Hydroxyisovaleryl CoA accumulation can inhibit cellular respiration either directly or via effects on the ratios of acyl CoA:free CoA if further metabolism and detoxification of 3-hydroxyisovaleryl CoA does not occur (22). The transfer to carnitine by 4 carnitine acyl-CoA transferases distributed in subcellular compartments likely serves as an important reservoir for acyl moieties (39–41). 3-Hydroxyisovaleryl CoA is likely detoxified by carnitine acetyltransferase producing 3HIA-carnitine, which is transported across the inner mitochondrial membrane (and hence effectively out of the mitochondria) via carnitine-acylcarnitine translocase (39). 3HIA-carnitine is thought to be either directly deacylated by a hydrolase to 3HIA or to undergo a second CoA exchange to again form 3-hydroxyisovaleryl CoA followed by release of 3HIA and free CoA by a thioesterase.
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