Nutrition and Functions of Amino Acids in Aquatic Crustaceans

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2021:1285:169-198. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-54462-1_9.


Crustaceans (e.g., shrimp and crabs) are a good source of protein-rich foods for human consumption. They are the second largest aquaculture species worldwide. Understanding the digestion of dietary protein, as well as the absorption, metabolism and functions of amino acids (AAs) and small peptides is essential to produce cost-effective and sustainable aquafeeds. Hepatopancreas (the midgut gland) is the main site for the digestion of dietary protein as well as the absorption of small peptides and AAs into the hemolymph. Besides serving as the building blocks of protein, AAs (particularly aspartate, glutamate, glutamine and alanine) are the primary metabolic fuels for the gut and extra-hepatopancreas tissues (e.g., kidneys and skeletal muscle) of crustaceans. In addition, AAs are precursors for the syntheses of glucose, lipids, H2S, and low-molecular-weight molecules (e.g., nitric oxide, glutathione, polyamines, histamine, and hormones) with enormous biological importance, such as physical barrier, immunological and antioxidant defenses. Therefore, both nutritionally essential and nonessential AAs are needed in diets to improve the growth, development, molt rate, survival, and reproduction of crustaceans. There are technical difficulties and challenges in the use of crystalline AAs for research and practical production due to the loss of free AAs during feed processing, the leaching of in-feed free AAs to the surrounding water environment, and asynchronous absorption with peptide-bounded AAs. At present, much knowledge about AA metabolism and functions in crustaceans is based on studies of mammals and fish species. Basic research in this area is necessary to lay a solid foundation for improving the balances and bioavailability of AAs in the diets for optimum growth, health and wellbeing of crustaceans, while preventing and treating their metabolic diseases. This review highlights recent advances in AA nutrition and metabolism in aquatic crustacean species at their different life stages. The new knowledge is expected to guide the development of the next generation of their improved diets.

Keywords: Amino acids; Crabs; Crustaceans; Shrimp.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids*
  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glutamine
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status*


  • Amino Acids
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic Acid