Biochemical Society Transactions

679th Meeting of the Biochemical Society

Regulation of pyruvate dehydrogenase complex activity by reversible phosphorylation

M.J. Holness, M.C. Sugden


PDC (pyruvate dehydrogenase complex) catalyses the oxidative decarboxylation of pyruvate, linking glycolysis to the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Regulation of PDC determines and reflects substrate preference and is critical to the ‘glucose–fatty acid cycle’, a concept of reciprocal regulation of lipid and glucose oxidation to maintain glucose homoeostasis developed by Philip Randle. Mammalian PDC activity is inactivated by phosphorylation by the PDKs (pyruvate dehydrogenase kinases). PDK inhibition by pyruvate facilitates PDC activation, favouring glucose oxidation and malonyl-CoA formation: the latter suppresses LCFA (long-chain fatty acid) oxidation. PDK activation by the high mitochondrial acetyl-CoA/CoA and NADH/NAD+ concentration ratios that reflect high rates of LCFA oxidation causes blockade of glucose oxidation. Complementing glucose homoeostasis in health, fuel allostasis, i.e. adaptation to maintain homoeostasis, is an essential component of the response to chronic changes in glycaemia and lipidaemia in insulin resistance. We develop the concept that the PDKs act as tissue homoeostats and suggest that long-term modulation of expression of individual PDKs, particularly PDK4, is an essential component of allostasis to maintain homoeostasis. We also describe the intracellular signals that govern the expression of the various PDK isoforms, including the roles of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors and lipids, as effectors within the context of allostasis.

  • fatty acid
  • glucose
  • peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α
  • pyruvate dehydrogenase complex
  • pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase
  • pyruvate dehydrogenase phosphate phosphatase


  • 679th Meeting of the Biochemical Society held at the University of Essex, Colchester, 2–4 July 2003

  • Abbreviations used: LCFA, long-chain fatty acid; PDC, pyruvate dehydrogenase complex; E1, pyruvate dehydrogenase component of PDC; E2, dihydrolipoyl acetyltransferase; E3, dihydrolipoyl dehydrogenase; PDK, pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase; PDP, pyruvate dehydrogenase phosphate phosphatase; PDP1r, regulatory subunit of PDP1; PPAR, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor; TAG, triacylglycerol; TZD, thiazolidinedione.