Intestinal absorption of the intact peptide carnosine in man, and comparison with intestinal permeability to lactulose

J Physiol. 1991 Aug;439:411-22. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1991.sp018673.


1. Healthy humans ingested the dipeptide carnosine (L-beta-alanyl-L-histidine). Their plasma levels and urinary outputs of carnosine and beta-alanine were monitored over the following 5 h. 2. Large amounts of intact carnosine (up to 14% of the ingested dose) were recovered in the urine over the 5 h after ingestion. However, carnosine was undetectable in the plasma unless precautions were taken to inhibit blood carnosinase activity ex vivo during and after blood collection. 3. The amount of carnosine recovered in urine varied substantially between subjects. It correlated negatively with carnosinase enzymic activity in the plasma. Highest carnosinase activities were observed in those subjects who regularly underwent physical training. 4. Urinary recovery of the disaccharide lactulose also varied considerably between subjects, but was substantially lower than that of carnosine. There was no significant correlation between the recoveries of carnosine and lactulose. 5. When lactulose was ingested with a hypertonic solution, the urinary recovery of lactulose was generally increased. When carnosine was ingested with a hypertonic solution, the urinary recovery of carnosine was reduced: hence the paracellular route probably is not dominant for absorption of intact carnosine. 6. Intact carnosine must have crossed the intestine to an extent much greater than hitherto recognized. Rapid post-absorptive hydrolysis is a severe obstacle to quantification of intact peptide absorption.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carnosine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Carnosine / urine
  • Dipeptidases / blood
  • Dipeptides / urine
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Lactulose / pharmacokinetics*
  • Lactulose / urine
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rhamnose / urine
  • Time Factors
  • beta-Alanine / urine


  • Dipeptides
  • beta-Alanine
  • glycylsarcosine
  • Lactulose
  • Carnosine
  • Dipeptidases
  • aminoacyl-histidine dipeptidase
  • Rhamnose