Taylor, M.R., Hurley, J.B., Van Epps, H.A., and Brockerhoff, S.E. (2004) A zebrafish model for pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency: Rescue of neurological dysfunction and embryonic lethality using a ketogenic diet. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 101(13):4584-4589.
Defects in the pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) complex result in severe neurological dysfunction, congenital lactic acidosis, growth retardation, and early death. Current treatments for PDH deficiency are administered postnatally and are generally unsuccessful. Because many patients with this disease are born with irreversible defects, a model system for the development of effective pre- and postnatal therapies would be of great value. In a behavioral genetic screen aimed to identify zebrafish with visual function defects, we previously isolated two alleles of the recessive lethal mutant no optokinetic response a (noa). Here we report that noa is deficient for dihydrolipoamide S-acetyltransferase (Dlat), the PDH E2 subunit, and exhibits phenotypes similar to human patients with PDH deficiency. To rescue the deficiency, we added ketogenic substrates to the water in which the embryos develop. This treatment successfully restored vision, promoted feeding behavior, reduced lactic acidosis, and increased survival. Our study demonstrates an approach for establishing effective therapies for PDH deficiency and other congenital diseases that affect early embryonic development.