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Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2009 May;296(5):G1130-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.90545.2008. Epub 2009 Feb 19.

Threonine-deficient diets induced changes in hepatic bioenergetics.

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Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis, Davis, California 95616, USA.


Diets deficient in an indispensable amino acid are known to suppress food intake in rats. Few studies were focused at understanding how amino acid-deficient diets may elicit biochemical changes at the mitochondrial level. The goal of this study was to evaluate mitochondrial function in rats fed diets with 0.00, 0.18, 0.36, and 0.88% threonine (Thr) (set at 0, 30, 60, and 140% of Thr requirement for growth). Here, it is described for the first time that Thr-deficient diets induce a specific uncoupling of mitochondria in liver, especially with NADH-linked substrates, not observed in heart (except for Thr-devoid diet). The advantage of this situation would be to provide ATP to support growth and maintenance when high-quality protein food (or wealth of high-quality food in general) is available, whereas Thr-deficient diets (or deficient-quality protein food) promote the opposite, increasing mitochondrial uncoupling in liver. The uncoupling with NADH substrates would favor the use of nutrients as energy sources with higher FADH-to-NADH ratios, such as fat, minimizing the first irreversible NADH-dependent catabolism of many amino acids, including Thr, thus enhancing the use of the limiting amino acid for protein synthesis when a low quality protein source is available.

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