Citrulline possesses a highly specific metabolism that bypasses splanchnic extraction because it is not used by the intestine or taken up by the liver. The administration of citrulline may be used to deliver available nitrogen for protein homeostasis in peripheral tissues and as an arginine precursor synthesized de novo in the kidneys and endothelial and immune cells. Fresh research has shown that citrulline is efficiently transported across the intestinal luminal membrane by a set of transporters belonging to the B⁰,⁺, L, and b⁰,⁺ systems. Several pharmacokinetic studies have confirmed that citrulline is efficiently absorbed when administered orally. Oral citrulline could be used to deliver arginine to the systemic circulation or as a protein anabolic agent in specific clinical situations, because recent data have suggested that citrulline, although not a component of proteins, stimulates protein synthesis in skeletal muscle through the mammalian target of rapamycin signaling pathway. Hence, citrulline could play a pivotal role in maintaining protein homeostasis and is a promising pharmaconutrient in nutritional support strategies for malnourished patients, especially in aging and sarcopenia.
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