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J Clin Invest. 1972 May;51(5):1195-202.

Amino acid metabolism during starvation in human pregnancy.


To evaluate the factors regulating gluconeogenesis in pregnancy, plasma amino acid levels were determined during the course of an 84-90 hr fast in physically healthy women studied during wk 16-22 of gestation (before undergoing therapeutic abortion), and in nonpregnant controls. The effect of pregnancy on the glycemic response to exogenous alanine administration during starvation was also investigated. In the nonpregnant group fasting resulted in a 2- to 3-fold increase in the levels of plasma valine, leucine, isoleucine, and alpha-aminobutyrate, while the concentration of alanine and glycine fell. In the pregnant group, the levels of most amino acids were significantly reduced in the postabsorptive state. With starvation, the plasma concentration of alanine fell more rapidly in the pregnant group and was significantly below that of the nonpregnant subjects for the first 60 hr of the fast. In contrast, a significant elevation in plasma glycine, serine, and threonine was observed in the pregnant group after 84 hr of fasting, whereas similar increments were not demonstrable until after 10 days of fasting in previously studied nonpregnant obese subjects. Paralleling the changes in maternal plasma, amniotic fluid levels of valine, leucine, and isoleucine increased while that of alanine fell during the fast. Although the plasma glucose concentration was lower in the pregnant group at termination of the fast, intravenous alanine administration (0.15 g/kg), resulted in a prompt, comparable increase (20-25 mg/100 ml) in plasma glucose in both groups of subjects. It is concluded that (a) pregnancy accelerates and exaggerates the hypoalaninemic and hyperglycinemic effects of starvation; (b) lack of key endogenous substrate rather than altered intrahepatic processes may limit hepatic gluconeogenesis in pregnancy and contribute to gestational hypoglycemia; (c) maternal caloric deprivation profoundly alters the levels of amino acids in amniotic fluid.

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