Effect of Experimental Diabetes on the Levels of Aromatic and Branched-Chain Amino Acids in Rat Blood and Brain

  1. John D Fernstrom
  1. Laboratory of Brain and Metabolism, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
  1. Address reprint requests to Dr. John D. Fernstrom, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O/Hara Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213.

Abstract

Male rats treated 3 wk earlier with streptozotocin showed abnormally high blood levels of leucine, isoleucine, and valine throughout the 24-h period. Serum phenylalanine levels were slightly increased, while those of tryptophan and tyrosine were occasionally reduced. In brain, the level of each branched-chain amino acid was significantly increased above normal at all times. The brain concentration of each aromatic amino acid was always below normal. These changes were restored almost to normal by exogenous insulin therapy. Since the ingestion of protein is normally a major factor influencing blood amino acid levels, the effect of ingesting single, protein-containing meals on the blood and brain levels of these amino acids was also studied. After an overnight fast, the ingestion of a protein-containing meal by diabetic rats increased substantially both blood and brain levels of each branched-chain amino acid. No such increases occurred in normal rats. Ingestion of this meal produced only small changes in the brain and blood levels of the aromatic amino acids in both diabetic and normal rats. The changes in the brain level of each large neutral amino acid in some cases paralleled those in its blood level. More often, they paralleled the changes in the blood ratio of each amino acid to the sum of the other aromatic and branched-chain amino acids/. This ratio is often a good predictor of the competitive transport of these amino acids into brain (Fernstrom and Faller, 1978). The observed changes in the brain levels of these amino acids in diabetes may influence the rates at which they are consumed in metabolic pathways Within this organ.

  • Received November 4, 1981.
  • Revision received September 20, 1982.
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