The mechanisms by means of which phenylephrine stimulates glutamine metabolism were studied in isolated rat hepatocytes. In the first 2 min after phenylephrine addition there was a rapid fall in the concentrations of intracellular 2-oxoglutarate and glutamate, presumably owing to activation of 2-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase. This was followed 2-3 min later by activation of glutaminase and by increases in glutamate and 2-oxoglutarate. Activation of glutaminase by phenylephrine was due to direct stimulation of the enzyme rather than to reversal of inhibition by the decrease in 2-oxoglutarate and glutamate. The stimulation of glutaminase by phenylephrine is partly due to an increase in the affinity of the enzyme for ammonia, its essential activator. It is concluded that stimulation of steady-state flux through the pathway from glutamine to glucose and urea can only be achieved by stimulation of glutaminase, the first enzyme in the pathway.

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