Interorgan ammonia, glutamate, and glutamine trafficking in pigs with acute liver failure

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2006 Sep;291(3):G373-81. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00440.2005. Epub 2006 Jun 15.


Ammonia reduction is the target for therapy of hepatic encephalopathy, but lack of quantitative data about how the individual organs handle ammonia limits our ability to develop novel therapeutic strategies. The study aims were to evaluate interorgan ammonia metabolism quantitatively in a devascularized pig model of acute liver failure (ALF). Ammonia and amino acid fluxes were measured across the portal drained viscera (PDV), kidneys, hind leg, and lungs in ALF pigs. ALF pigs developed hyperammonemia and increased glutamine levels, whereas glutamate levels were decreased. PDV contributed to the hyperammonemic state mainly through increased shunting and not as a result of increased glutamine breakdown. The kidneys were quantitatively as important as PDV in systemic ammonia release, whereas muscle took up ammonia. Data suggest that the lungs are able to remove ammonia from the circulation during the initial stage of ALF. Our study provides new data supporting the concept of glutamate deficiency in a pig model of ALF. Furthermore, the kidneys are quantitatively as important as PDV in ammonia production, and the muscles play an important role in ammonia removal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Female
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Glutamine / metabolism*
  • Hyperammonemia / etiology
  • Hyperammonemia / metabolism*
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver Failure, Acute / complications
  • Liver Failure, Acute / metabolism*
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Swine
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Ammonia