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Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2015 Aug 7;10(8):1444-58. doi: 10.2215/CJN.10311013. Epub 2014 Jul 30.

Urea and Ammonia Metabolism and the Control of Renal Nitrogen Excretion.

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Nephrology and Hypertension Section, North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, Gainesville, Florida; Division of Nephrology, Hypertension, and Transplantation, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Florida;
Nephrology Division, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas; and.
Nephrology Division, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.


Renal nitrogen metabolism primarily involves urea and ammonia metabolism, and is essential to normal health. Urea is the largest circulating pool of nitrogen, excluding nitrogen in circulating proteins, and its production changes in parallel to the degradation of dietary and endogenous proteins. In addition to serving as a way to excrete nitrogen, urea transport, mediated through specific urea transport proteins, mediates a central role in the urine concentrating mechanism. Renal ammonia excretion, although often considered only in the context of acid-base homeostasis, accounts for approximately 10% of total renal nitrogen excretion under basal conditions, but can increase substantially in a variety of clinical conditions. Because renal ammonia metabolism requires intrarenal ammoniagenesis from glutamine, changes in factors regulating renal ammonia metabolism can have important effects on glutamine in addition to nitrogen balance. This review covers aspects of protein metabolism and the control of the two major molecules involved in renal nitrogen excretion: urea and ammonia. Both urea and ammonia transport can be altered by glucocorticoids and hypokalemia, two conditions that also affect protein metabolism. Clinical conditions associated with altered urine concentrating ability or water homeostasis can result in changes in urea excretion and urea transporters. Clinical conditions associated with altered ammonia excretion can have important effects on nitrogen balance.


acidosis; renal physiology; urea

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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