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JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1992 Nov-Dec;16(6):569-78.

How amino acids get into cells: mechanisms, models, menus, and mediators.

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Department of Surgery, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville.


The bloodstream provides a readily available pool of amino acids, which can be taken up by all cells of the body to support the myriad of biochemical reactions that are essential for life. The transport of amino acids into the cytoplasm occurs via functionally and biochemically distinct amino acid transport systems that have been defined on the basis of their amino acid selectivities and physico-chemical properties. Each system presumably relates to a discrete putative membrane-bound transporter protein that resides within the cell membrane and functions to translocate the amino acid from the extracellular environment into the cytoplasm. Many of these transporters require sodium for maximal activity. The sodium-dependent model presented is consistent with "preferred random" kinetics, with sodium binding preferentially before the amino acid. The transporter acts as an enzyme that catalyzes the movement of its bound amino acid (and sodium) into the cell. In this review, the authors provide a conceptual view of the mechanism of carrier-mediated amino acid transport as well as an overview of the various models that can be used in the laboratory to study this process. In addition, the known agencies that accomplish transport and their regulation by nutrition, hormones, and other mediators of critical illness are discussed.

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