Quantification of incorporation of [15N]ammonia into plasma amino acids and urea

B. W. Patterson, F. Carraro, S. Klein, R. R. Wolfe

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The incorporation of 15N into individual plasma amino acids and urea was quantified in five human subjects who received 15NH4Cl either orally or intravenously for 6 h. After oral tracer administration, the highest enrichment was achieved by arginine, followed by urea and glutamine; distribution of 15N within glutamine was 55% amide and 45% amino N. Glutamine achieved the highest enrichment after the intravenous administration of tracer, with a distribution of 92% amide and 8% amino N. The relative distribution pattern of 15N incorporation was quantified from the rate at which 15N initially appeared in each plasma component. Amino acids (especially arginine, glutamine, and glutamate) accounted for greater than one-half (54%) of the orally administered tracer that was initially recovered in plasma components, compared with 46% initial appearance for urea; for the intravenous tracer, amino acids accounted for 78% of initial appearance of tracer compared with 22% for urea. Our results highlight the involvement of the splanchnic bed in the utilization of orally administered ammonia (preferential incorporation of oral tracer into arginine, urea, glutamate, and the amino N of glutamine) in contrast to the preferential incorporation of systemically administered ammonia into the amide N of glutamine and alanine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E508-E515
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3 32-3
StatePublished - 1995


  • amino acid metabolism
  • ammonia metabolism
  • nitrogen metabolism
  • protein metabolism
  • stable isotopes
  • transamination


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