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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Apr;284(4):E733-40. Epub 2002 Dec 17.

Serine metabolism in human pregnancy.

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  • 1Departments of Pediatrics and Reproductive Biology, Case Western Reserve University, MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio 44109-1998, USA.


Serine plays an important role in intermediary metabolism as a source of one carbon pool for nucleotide biosynthesis, as a precursor for glycine and glucose, and as a contributor to cysteine biosynthesis. A unique serine-glycine cycling between the liver and the placenta has been demonstrated in the sheep fetus. We hypothesized that, because of serine's role in growth and development, significant changes in serine metabolism will occur in pregnancy with advancing gestation. The rate of appearance (R(a)) of serine and its metabolism were quantified in healthy women longitudinally through pregnancy with a [2-(15)N(13)C]serine tracer. The contribution of serine N to urea and the rate of oxidation of serine were measured using the precursor-product relation. Plasma serine concentrations and serine R(a) were lower in pregnant (P) women, in both early and late gestation, compared with nonpregnant (NP) women [plasma serine: NP, 113 +/- 24.5; P early, 71.9 +/- 6.2; P late, 68.5 +/- 9.6 micromol/l; serine R(a): NP (n = 7), 152.9 +/- 42.8; P early (n = 12), 123.7 +/- 21.5; P late (n = 8), 102.8 +/- 18.2 micromol x kg(-1) x h(-1)]. Serine contributed approximately 6% to urea N and 15-20% to the plasma glycine pool, and oxidation of serine represented approximately 8% of R(a). There was no significant difference between P and NP subjects. Glucose infusion, at 3 mg x kg(-1) x min(-1) in P subjects, resulted in a decrease in serine R(a) and an increase in oxidation. The decrease in serine turnover in pregnancy may represent a decrease in alpha-amino nitrogen turnover related to a decreased rate of branched-chain amino acid transamination and caused by pregnancy-related hormones aimed at nitrogen conservation and accretion.

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