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Tryptophan Overload in the Pregnant Rat: Effect on Brain Amino Acid Levels and In Vitro Protein Synthesis


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Fando, Departamento de Investigación, Centro “Ramón y Cajal,” Ctra. de Colmenar, km 9, Madrid 34, Spain.


The concentration of most amino acids was higher in the brains of 19- and 21-day rat fetuses than in their respective mothers. After an intraperitoneal load of tryptophan to the mother, the intracerebral concentration of several amino acids (including leucine) decreased not only in the mothers, but also in their fetuses. The in vitro incorporation of pHJleucine into proteins in brain postmitochondrial supernatant fractions was enhanced in both the mothers and fetuses after tryptophan administration, but this effect disappeared when protein synthesis was calculated by using specific activities corrected for the amount of unlabeled leucine in the preparation. By this criterion, protein synthesis activity appeared similar in the brains of 19- and 21-day pregnant rats but was higher in their fetuses, especially in the 21-day subjects. Thus, protein synthesis in the brain was not altered by marked changes in the amino acid pool and more profound and prolonged metabolic disturbances must occur to cause permanent damage in the developing brain.