1. Saliva obtained from the parotid duct of normal and uraemic subjects had an average urea concentration of 86% of the plasma concentration whereas in mixed saliva obtained from the mouth the urea concentration was only 31% of the plasma concentration. Ammonia concentrations were low or unmeasurable in parotid saliva but varied between 0·6 and 26 mmol/kg in oral saliva, showing a positive correlation with the plasma urea concentration.
2. The urea in samples of mixed oral saliva incubated at 37°C disappeared by 290 min. Ammonia steadily increased during incubation; within the first 100 min, the increase could be largely accounted for by bacterial hydrolysis of urea, but later non-urea sources became relatively more important.
3. These findings suggest that the ammonia in mixed oral saliva is derived by bacterial hydrolysis of urea within the mouth. However, the concentration of ammonia plus urea nitrogen in oral saliva was only 76% of the urea nitrogen concentration of parotid saliva, which suggests that some ammonia is lost from the mouth by buccal absorption or by volatilization.
4. To assess the role of non-ionic diffusion of ammonia through the buccal mucosa, we studied the effect of pH on the disappearance of ammonia from buffered solutions retained in the mouth. Ammonia concentrations fell more rapidly at pH 9 than at pH 7, as also did those of hydrazine, a non-volatile analogue of ammonia which is known to be absorbed through other mucosae by non-ionic diffusion. These findings suggest that salivary ammonia is reabsorbed passively through the oral mucosa in the un-ionized phase.