The effect of 3-mercaptopicolinate, an inhibitor of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase [GTP:oxaloacetate carboxy-lyase (transphosphorylating), EC], was tested on NH3 formation via the purine nucleotide cycle and glutamate dehydrogenase (EC NH3 excretion in rats increased 70-fold after 48 h of NH4Cl feeding, from 12.2 +/- 4.5 to 862 +/- 190 mumol/mg of creatinine. At 4 h after a single intraperitoneal injection of 3-mercaptopicolinate into NH4Cl-fed rats, NH3 excretion was inhibited by 93%. Kidneys of NH4Cl-fed plus 3-mercaptopicolinate-treated rats, compared with those of NH4Cl-fed rats, showed a 3.5-fold increase in the content of IMP, 5-fold increase in adenylosuccinate, 4-fold increase in aspartate, and a 30% increase in AMP. 3-Mercaptopicolinate completely inhibited NH3 and glucose formation from glutamate in tubules from acidotic rats and NH3 formation from aspartate in kidney perfusion experiments. When transamination in tubules was prevented by 2-amino-4-methoxy-trans-but-3-enoic acid, formation of glucose, but not of NH3, from glutamate was inhibited. 3-Mercaptopicolinate completely inhibited NH3 formation from aspartate in the presence of the aminotransferase inhibitor in kidney tubules. The data show that NH3 can be formed via glutamate dehydrogenase and the purine nucleotide cycle at significant and approximately equal rates. 3-Mercaptopicolinate has no direct effect on NH3 formation via glutamate dehydrogenase, but inhibits that via the purine nucleotide cycle. We conclude that gluconeogenesis is not regulatory for NH3 formation in kidney.

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