Hepatic Glutamine Metabolism under the Influence of the Portal Ammonia Concentration in the Perfused Rat Liver


  • Dieter HÄUSSINER,

    1. Medizinische Universitätsklinik, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Hugstetterstraße 55, D-7800 Freiburg i. Br., Federal Republic of Germany
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  • Helmut SIES

    Corresponding author
    1. Institut für Physiologische Chemie I der Universität Düsseldorf, Moorenstraße 5, D-4000 Düsseldorf, Federal Republic of Germany
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To whom correspondence shoul be addressed.


  • 1l-Glutamine, when added to the portal perfusate in a system of isolated perfused rat liver (non-recirculating open system) at physiological concentration of 0.6 mM, does not lead to an extra production of urea and ammonia, but it does so when ammonium ions at physiological concentration of 0.3 mM are simultaneously present. This stimulatory effect of ammonium ions on glutaminase activity is readily reversible. The effect of portal ammonium ions is half-maximal at 0.2–0.3 mM and maximal at about 0.6 mM.
  • 2The maximal rate of production of urea-N plus ammonia from glutamine is exhibited at 10–12 mM glutamine, amounting to about 2.6 μmolxmin−1 xg wet weight−1.
  • 3The modulatory effects of ammonium ions on the disposition of glutamine by the liver were demonstrated (a) by the extra release of nitrogen from glutamine, (b) by the release of 14CO2 from [U-14C]glutamine, and (c) by measurement of glutamine uptake.
  • 4The simultaneous operation of glutamine synthetase and glutaminase activities in liver was demonstrated to exist (futile cycle), based on 14CO2 release from [U-14C]glutamine and the positive glutamine balance across the hepatic and portal veins, and further on the effects of methionine sulfoximine. This inhibitor of glutamine synthetase abolished net glutamine release and left the rate of 14CO2 relcase from [U-14C]glutamine unaltered. Moreover, there is an extra O2 uptake by the liver upon glutamine addition which is not accounted for by extra urea synthesis; the extra O2 uptake increases with the portal glutamine supply. An estimate of the rate of this futile cycle at 0.6 mM glutamine is given, approx. 0.1 μmol × min−1× g wet wt liver−1.
  • 5The stimulatory effect of portal ammonium ions on hepatic glutamine breakdown is discussed in terms of an inter-organ feed-forward mechanism, e. g. between small intestine and liver during conditions of increased glutamine supply and, therefore, increased requirement of glutamine removal from the circulation.