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Biochem J. 1990 Dec 15;272(3):671-5.

Effect of level of dietary protein on arginine-stimulated citrulline synthesis. Correlation with mitochondrial N-acetylglutamate concentrations.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles 90024.


Increases in dietary protein have been reported to increase the rate of citrulline synthesis and the level of N-acetylglutamate in liver. We have confirmed this effect of diet on citrulline synthesis in rat liver mitochondria and show parallel increases in N-acetylglutamate concentration. The magnitude of the effect of arginine in the suspending medium on citrulline synthesis was also dependent on dietary protein content. Mitochondria from rats fed on a protein-free diet initially contained low levels of N-acetylglutamate, and addition of arginine increased the rate of its synthesis. Citrulline synthesis and acetylglutamate content in these mitochondria increased more than 5-fold when 1 mM-arginine was added. A diet high in protein results in mitochondria with increased N-acetylglutamate and a high rate of citrulline synthesis; 1 mM-arginine increased citrulline synthesis in such mitochondria by only 36%. The concentration of arginine in portal blood was 47 microM in rats fed on a diet lacking protein, and 182 microM in rats fed on a diet containing 60% protein, suggesting that arginine may be a regulatory signal to the liver concerning the dietary protein intake. The rates of citrulline synthesis were proportional to the mitochondrial content of acetylglutamate in mitochondria obtained from rats fed on diets containing 0, 24, or 60% protein, whether incubated in the absence or presence of arginine. Although the effector concentrations are higher than the Ka for the enzymes, these results support the view that concentrations of both arginine and acetylglutamate are important in the regulation of synthesis of citrulline and urea. Additionally, the effects of dietary protein level (and of arginine) are exerted in large part by way of modulation of the concentration of acetylglutamate.

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