Although glutamine synthesis has a major role in the control of acid-base balance and ammonia detoxification in the kidney of herbivorous species, very little is known about the regulation of this process. We therefore studied the influence of acetate, which is readily metabolized by the kidney and whose metabolism is accompanied by the production of bicarbonate, on glutamine synthesis from variously labelled [13C]alanine and [14C]alanine molecules in isolated rabbit renal proximal tubules. With alanine as sole exogenous substrate, glutamine and, to a smaller extent, glutamate and CO2, were the only significant products of the metabolism of this amino acid, which was removed at high rates. Absolute fluxes through the enzymes involved in alanine conversion into glutamine were assessed by using a novel model describing the corresponding reactions in conjunction with the 13C NMR, and to a smaller extent, the radioactive and enzymic data. The presence of acetate (5 mM) led to a large stimulation of fluxes through citrate synthase and α-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase. These effects were accompanied by increases in the removal of alanine, in the accumulation of glutamate and in flux through the anaplerotic enzyme pyruvate carboxylase. Acetate did not alter fluxes through glutamate dehydrogenase and glutamine synthetase; as a result, acetate did not change the accumulation of ammonia, which was negligible under both experimental conditions. We conclude that acetate, which seems to be an important energy-provider to the rabbit renal proximal tubule, simultaneously traps as glutamate the extra nitrogen removed as alanine, thus preventing the release of additional ammonia by the glutamate dehydrogenase reaction.

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