Amino acid metabolism and the energetics of growth

Arch Tierernahr. 1998;51(2-3):187-97. doi: 10.1080/17450399809381918.


The nonessential amino acids are involved in a large number of functions that are not directly associated with protein synthesis. Recent studies using a combination of transorgan balance and stable isotopic tracers have demonstrated that a substantial portion of the extra-splanchnic flux of glutamate, glutamine, glycine and cysteine derives from tissue synthesis. A key amino acid in this respect is glutamic acid. Little glutamic acid of dietary origin escapes metabolism in the small intestinal mucosa. Furthermore, because glutamic acid is the only amino acid that can be synthesized by mammals by reductive amination of a ketoacid, it is the ultimate nitrogen donor for the synthesis of other nonessential amino acids. Because the synthesis of glutamic acid and its product glutamine involve the expenditure of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), it seems possible that nonessential amino acid synthesis might have a significant bearing on the energetics of protein synthesis and, hence, of protein deposition. This paper discusses the topic of the energy cost of protein deposition, considers the metabolic physiology of amino acid oxidation and nonessential amino acid synthesis, and attempts to combine the information to speculate on the overall impact of amino acid metabolism on the energy exchanges of animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Glutamine / metabolism
  • Growth*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Proteins / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Proteins
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Adenosine Triphosphate