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J Exp Biol. 1995 Feb;198(Pt 2):373-8.

The relationship between plasma urea levels and some muscle trimethylamine levels in Xenopus laevis: a 31P and 14N nuclear magnetic resonance study.

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Department of Physiology, Liverpool University.


Urea is known to be disruptive to proteins, yet high levels occur in a variety of tissues. It has been suggested that trimethylamines counteract the effects of urea on protein. We have, therefore, directly investigated whether elevating tissue urea levels produces an increase in trimethylamine concentrations by using 31P and 14N nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to detect two trimethylamines (glycine betaine and glycerylphosphorylcholine) in intact, living gastrocnemius muscle from Xenopus laevis. Xenopus laevis naturally elevates its tissue urea levels under dry conditions. This ability was used to obtain plasma urea levels ranging from 1 to 110 mmol l-1. This procedure did not alter pH or levels of ATP or phosphocreatine in the muscles, but did raise trimethylamine levels. We find that there is a significant relationship between plasma urea concentrations and the trimethylamine levels studied. This relationship was, however, limited to the lower range of urea levels. We propose that other trimethylamines or mechanisms come into play at urea concentrations above 20 mmol l-1.

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