Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Arginine and ornithine are the main precursors for citrulline synthesis in mice

item Marini, Juan

Submitted to: Journal of Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/14/2011
Publication Date: 2/8/2012
Citation: Marini, J.C. 2012. Arginine and ornithine are the main precursors for citrulline synthesis in mice. Journal of Nutrition. 142:572-580.

Interpretive Summary: Citrulline and arginine are amino acids involved in many physiological and pathophysiological processes. Despite the considerable attention that these two amino acids have received recently, the choice of metabolites utilized for their synthesis remains controversial. Here we show that the mathematical model employed to interpret the data can bias the results, and lead to wrong conclusions. A new model is proposed and compared to the conventional model employed by others utilizing data generated in mice during different physiological conditions. The significance of this research is that the new model proposed better describes the utilization and metabolism of orally administered metabolites.

Technical Abstract: Recent isotopic tracer studies in mice, piglets, and humans have produced conflicting results as to the main carbon skeleton precursor for citrulline and arginine synthesis. This may be due in part to the different tracers infused and models utilized to interpret the stable isotope data. Furthermore, previous studies usually investigated a single precursor, which prevented the direct comparison among multiple precursors. To further elucidate the contribution of different precursors to citrulline synthesis, all possible enteral and plasma precursors of citrulline were studied in a mouse model during the postabsorptive and postprandrial period utilizing multitracer protocols. In addition, three different models were utilized in order to interpret the stable isotope data. The utilization of the classic precursor-product equation, developed for intravenously infused tracers but used to include also intragastrically tracers, grossly overestimated the contribution of enteral precursors. Regardless of the model employed, dietary and plasma arginine were the main precursors for citrulline synthesis during feeding and plasma arginine during fasting. The contribution of arginine was directly at the site of citrulline synthesis and through plasma ornithine. The predominant role of arginine and ornithine seen in this study supports the observations in mice, piglets, and humans, suggesting that ornithine amino transferase is a pivotal enzyme in this pathway.

Last Modified: 10/16/2017
Footer Content Back to Top of Page