Hepatocyte Heterogeneity in Glutamine and Ammonia Metabolism and the Role of an Intercellular Glutamine Cycle during Ureogenesis in Perfused Rat Liver



  • 1The metabolism of glutamine and ammonia was studied in isolated perfused rat liver in relation to its dependence on the direction of perfusion by comparing the physiological antegrade (portal to caval vein) to the retrograde direction (caval to portal vein).
  • 2Added ammonium ions are mainly converted to urea in antegrade and to glutamine in retrograde perfusions. In the absence of added ammonia, endogenously arising ammonium ions are converted to glutamine in antegrade, but are washed out in retrograde perfusions. When glutamine synthetase is inhibited by methionine sulfoximine, direction of perfusion has no effect on urea synthesis from added or endogenous ammonia.
  • 314CO2 production from [1-14C]glutamine is higher in antegrade than in retrograde perfusions as a consequence of label dilution during retrograde perfusions.
  • 4The results are explained by substrate and enzyme activity gradients along the liver lobule under conditions of limiting ammonia supply for glutamine and urea synthesis, and they are consistent with a perivenous localization of glutamine synthetase and a predominantly periportal localization of glutaminase and urea synthesis. Further, the data indicate a predominantly periportal localization of endogenous ammonia production. The results provide a basis for an intercellular (as opposed to intracellular) glutamine cycling and its role under different metabolic conditions.

Alanine aminotransferase (EC


carbamoyl-phosphate synthetase (ammonia) (EC


glutaminase or l-glutamine amidohydrolase (EC


glutamine synthetase (EC


glutamate dehydrogenase (EC


pyruvate dehydrogenase (lipoamide) (EC


tyrosine aminotransferase (EC