Role of branched-chain amino acid-catabolizing enzymes in intertissue signaling, metabolic remodeling, and energy homeostasis. Biswas D, Duffley L, Pulinilkunnil T. FASEB. 2019 May 14:fj201802842RR. doi: 10.1096/fj.201802842RR.
Beyond their contribution as fundamental building blocks of life, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) play a critical role in physiologic and pathologic processes. Importantly, BCAAs are associated with insulin resistance, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and genetic disorders. However, several metabolome-wide studies in recent years could not attribute alterations in systemic BCAAs as the sole driver of endocrine perturbations, suggesting that a snapshot of global BCAA changes does not always reveal the underlying modifications. Because enzymes catabolizing BCAAs have a unique distribution, it is plausible that the tissue-specific roles of BCAA-catabolic enzymes could precipitate changes in systemic BCAA levels, flux, and action. We review the genetic and pharmacological approaches dissecting the role of BCAA-catabolic enzyme dysfunctions. We summarized emerging evidence on BCAA metabolic intermediates, tissue specificity of BCAA-catabolizing enzymes, and crosstalk between different metabolites in driving metabolic maladaptation in health and pathology. This review substantiates the understanding that tissue-specific dysfunction of the BCAA-catabolic enzymes and accumulating intermediary metabolites could act as better surrogates of metabolic imbalances, highlighting the biochemical communication among the nutrient triad of BCAAs, glucose, and fatty acid.