Rate of Glutamate Synthesis from Leucine in Rat Brain Measured In Vivo by 15N NMR

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The rate of glutamate synthesis from leucine by the branched-chain aminotransferase was measured in rat brain in vivo at steady state. The rats were fed exclusively by intravenous infusion of a nutrient solution containing [15N]leucine. The rate of glutamate synthesis from leucine, determined from the rate of increase of brain [15N]glutamate measured by 15N NMR and the 15N enrichments of brain and blood leucine analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, was 0.7-1.8 μmol/g/h at a steady-state brain leucine concentration of 0.25 μmol/g. A comparison of the observed fractional 15 N enrichments of brain leucine (0.42 ± 0.03) and glutamate (0.21 ± 0.015) showed that leucine provides ∼50% of glutamate nitrogen under our experimental condition. From the observed rate (0.7-1.8 μmol/g) and the known Km of the branched-chain aminotransferase for leucine (1.2 mM), the rate of glutamate synthesis from leucine at physiological brain leucine concentration (0.11 μmol/g) was estimated to be 0.35-0.9 μmol/g/h, with leucine providing ∼25% of glutamate nitrogen. The results strongly suggest that plasma leucine from dietary source, transported into the brain, is an important external source of nitrogen for replenishment of brain glutamate in vivo. Implications of the results for treatment of maple-syrup urine disease patients with leucine-restricted diet are discussed.

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