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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002 Dec;227(11):998-1000.

The role of histidine in the anemia of folate deficiency.

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Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY 10595, USA.


The amino acid histidine is metabolized to glutamic acid in mammalian tissue. Formiminoglutamic acid (FIGLU) is an intermediary in this reaction, and tetrahydrofolic acid is the coenzyme that converts it to glutamic acid. A test for folate deficiency concerns the measurement of urinary FIGLU excretion after a histidine load. It was observed that folate-deficient individuals receiving the histidine for the FIGLU test made hematological response that alleviated the anemia associated with this deficiency. This was unusual in that a biochemical test to determine the deficiency results in a beneficial effect for one aspect of the deficiency. The studies reported in this paper give a metabolic explanation for this phenomenon. Urine was collected for 24 hr from 25 folate-deficient subjects, 10 vitamin B(12)-deficient subjects, and 15 normal controls. Urinary excretion of histidine was a mean of 203 mg with a range of 130-360 mg for the folate-deficient subjects; 51.5 mg with a range of 30-76.6 mg for normal subjects; and 60.0 mg with a range of 32.3-93.0 mg for the vitamin B(12)-deficient subjects. All the folate-deficient subjects subsequently made a hematological response to the histidine administered for the FIGLU test. No hematological response was observed in the vitamin B(12)-deficient individuals. When folic acid was given to folate-deficient subjects who received no histidine, urinary histidine levels returned to normal levels rapidly and this was followed by a hematological response. Others have shown that volunteers fed a histidine-free diet developed anemia. In normal subjects, histidine is excreted much more in the urine than other essential amino acids are. Hemoglobin protein contains 10% histidine. Under normal conditions, dietary histidine can supply sufficient histidine to prevent anemia. When the dietary intake is diminished or the urinary excretion is greatly increased, anemia results. It is concluded that folate deficiency causes histidine depletion through increased urinary excretion of this amino acid. Feeding histidine replenishes tissue levels of histidine, resulting in hemoglobin regeneration. Folic acid administration results in return of histidine to normal urinary levels. Thus, a combination of folic acid histidine would be beneficial for folate deficient individuals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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