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The role of energy, serine, glycine, and 1-carbon units in the cost of nitrogen excretion in mammals and birds

Abstract : The efficiency with which dietary protein is used affects the nitrogen excretion by the animal and the environmental impact of animal production. Urea and uric acid are the main nitrogen excretion products resulting from amino acid catabolism in mammals and birds, respectively. Nitrogen excretion can be reduced by using low-protein diets supplemented with free amino acids to ensure that essential amino acids are not limiting performance. However, there are questions whether the capacity to synthesize certain nonessential amino acids is sufficient when low-protein diets are used. This includes glycine, which is used for uric acid synthesis. Nitrogen excretion not only implies a nitrogen and energy loss in the urine, but energy is also required to synthesize the excretion products. The objective of this study was to quantify the energy and metabolic requirements for nitrogen excretion products in the urine. The stoichiometry of reactions to synthesize urea, uric acid, allantoin, and creatinine was established using information from a publicly available database. The energy cost was at least 40.3, 60.7, 64.7, and 65.4 kJ/g excreted N for urea, uric acid, allantoin, and creatinine, respectively, of which 56, 56, 47, and 85% were retained in the excretion product. Data from a broiler study were used to carry out a flux balance analysis for nitrogen, serine, glycine, and so-called 1-carbon units. The flux balance indicated that the glycine intake was insufficient to cover the requirements for growth and uric acid excretion. The serine intake was also insufficient to cover the glycine deficiency, underlining the importance of the de novo synthesis of serine and glycine. One-carbon units are also a component of uric acid and can be synthesized from serine and glycine. There are indications that the de novo synthesis of 1-carbon units may be a ''weak link" in metabolism, because of the stoichiometric dependency between the synthesized 1-carbon units and glycine. The capacity to catabolize excess 1-carbon units may be limited, especially in birds fed low-protein diets. Therefore, there may be an upper limit to the 1-carbon-to-glycine requirement ratio in relation to nutrients that supply 1-carbon units and glycine. The ratio can be reduced by increasing uric acid excretion (i.e., reducing protein deposition) or by dietary supplementation with glycine. The hypothesis that the 1-carbon-to-glycine requirement ratio should be lower than the supply ratio provides a plausible explanation for the growth reduction in low-protein diets and the positive response to the dietary glycine supply.
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Jaap van Milgen. The role of energy, serine, glycine, and 1-carbon units in the cost of nitrogen excretion in mammals and birds. animal, Published by Elsevier (since 2021) / Cambridge University Press (until 2020), 2021, 15 (5), pp.100213. ⟨10.1016/j.animal.2021.100213⟩. ⟨hal-03281287⟩

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