1. The effects of oral hydrochloric acid, ammonium chloride, sodium bicarbonate and ammonium bicarbonate on urea and ammonium excretion in rats on a constant diet were studied.
2. Hydrochloric acid acidosis significantly reduced urea excretion in the rat, with an equimolar increase in NH+4 excretion and no change in their sum. In ammonium chloride acidosis, most of the additional nitrogen intake is excreted as NH+4 and a small percentage as urea. The converse holds true after administration of ammonium bicarbonate. The physiological significance of this is discussed.
3. The shift in nitrogen excretion from urea to NH+4 in acidosis is interpreted on the basis of bicarbonate production and utilization. Urea formation utilizes HCO−3. For amino acid sources, this utilization is offset by the metabolism of the carbon skeleton, which gives rise to HCO−3. When waste nitrogen is excreted as NH+4, no bicarbonate is utilized and the new HCO−3, generated by the carbon skeleton, helps to maintain hydrogen ion homeostasis.