The metabolism of glycerate and aspartate was investigated in perfused rat kidneys. The major pathway active for aspartate metabolism and NH3 production was found to include transamination, and not the purine nucleotide cycle. Pyruvate cycling was identified as a means by which reducing potential is generated in the cytosol for glucose and lactate production from these substrates. Inhibition of mitochondrial pyruvate transport caused an inhibition of glucose production, accumulation of lactate and pyruvate in the perfusate, and a decrease in the [lactate]/[pyruvate] ratio in kidneys perfused with aspartate. These data indicate a role of mitochondrial pyruvate transport in the provision of cytosolic reducing potential. With either aspartate or glycerate, 3-mercaptopicolinic acid (3-MPA) suppressed glucose synthesis and caused accumulation of malate plus fumarate within the kidney. Glucose production from glycerate was much less sensitive to the presence of 3-MPA than was glucose production from aspartate, illustrating a phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK)-independent pathway for the cycling of pyruvate. In aspartate-perfused kidneys, the presence of 3-MPA, at concentrations that completely blocked glucose accumulation in the perfusate, did not affect the rate of NH3 production and had only a minor effect on the rate of aspartate uptake. These data allow for an estimation of the rate of pyruvate formation from aspartate of about 1 mumol/min per kidney under conditions of complete PEPCK inhibition. Thus a PEPCK-independent pathway is operative for amino acid oxidation and pyruvate formation in perfused kidneys. The NADP-linked, but not the NAD-linked, ‘malic’ enzyme activity of the kidney cortex was found to be sufficient to catalyse this estimated rate of pyruvate formation.

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