Effect of different protein diets on the distribution of amino acids in plasma, liver and brain in the rat

Ann Nutr Metab. 1992;36(1):23-33. doi: 10.1159/000177695.


The distribution of amino acids between plasma, liver and brain was studied in adult male rats, fed a diet containing 8.7, 17 (control animals), 32 and 51% of protein during 15 days. The caloric intake was nearly equal in all groups. The highest food intake was observed in the animals on the low protein diet. Changes in plasma amino acids were variable. In contrast to the behavior of most amino acids in plasma, the branched chain amino acids were highest in the animals fed the 51% protein diet. Despite the low protein intake in the animals fed a 8.7% protein diet, the concentration of serine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, alanine, methionine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine and ornithine were significantly higher compared to control animals, whereas in those receiving a high protein diet, valine, leucine, tyrosine, tryptophan and histidine increased in relation to the increased protein and amino acid intake. The plasma amino acid patterns are not greatly influenced by the amino acid distribution in the food and the amount ingested. Alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, glutamate dehydrogenase and cholinesterase showed a two- to fivefold increased activity in the liver of animals consuming a high protein diet. In the brain, the concentration of valine, leucine, isoleucine, phenylalanine and tyrosine in animals receiving the low protein diet was higher than in controls and increased further with increasing protein content of the diet. Glutamine was increased in all dietary groups. The predicted influx of amino acids showed increasing influx rates in dependence of the plasma amino acid concentration. The entry of tyrosine and tryptophan and their brain concentration was inversely proportional to the protein content of the diet. In the present study which considers long-term adaptation to an increasing protein and amino acid intake in comparison to a balanced control protein diet, the levels of the indispensable amino acids were maintained within narrow limits in the brain and liver. The results indicate that inspite of a variable protein intake, the body tends to keep organ amino acids in relatively narrow limits favoring in this way amino acid homeostasis.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins