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Am J Physiol. 1986 Jul;251(1 Pt 1):G103-10.

Development of arginine-synthesizing enzymes in mouse intestine.


The urea biosynthetic pathway functions in mammalian liver to convert excess ammonia to urea and to maintain the concentration of ammonia in blood at nontoxic levels. This action is accomplished by enzymatic adaptation to quantitative changes in dietary protein. The first two enzymes of the pathway are found in the intestine of the adult mouse, but they do not adapt to dietary change. The enzymes in the intestine produce citrulline, which is carried by the bloodstream to the kidney, where it is converted by the next two enzymes of the pathway to arginine. This mechanism serves as the major source of circulating arginine. We have demonstrated that, at birth, the arginine-synthesizing enzymes in the kidney of the C57Bl/6 mouse are minimally developed, whereas in the intestine activity of carbamoyl-phosphate synthase is elevated and argininosuccinate synthase and lyase, usually present only in trace quantities in the adult intestine, are markedly increased in the newborn. The arginine formed cannot be converted to urea, since arginase does not appear in intestinal cells of the mouse until the age of 15 days. Except for liver, intestine has the most rapid protein turnover of any normal tissue. Our study indicates that, at a time when no other endogenous source of arginine for protein synthesis is available, the intestine of the newborn C57Bl mouse is capable of synthesizing arginine from either citrulline or NH3 and CO2.

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