Postnatal changes of plasma amino acids in suckling pigs.
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Amino acids, ammonia, urea, orotate, and nitrate plus nitrite (stable oxidation products of nitric oxide) were determined in plasma of 1- to 21-d-old suckling pigs. Jugular venous blood samples were obtained from pigs at 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21 d of age for analysis of plasma amino acids and metabolites by HPLC and enzymatic methods. Plasma concentrations of arginine and its immediate precursors (citrulline and ornithine) decreased (P < 0.01) progressively (20 to 41%) with increasing age from 3 to 14 d. Plasma concentrations of glutamine declined (P < 0.01) progressively (10 to 31%) during the 1st wk of life. Plasma concentrations of branched-chain amino acids, threonine, and alanine decreased (P < 0.01) (5 to 12%) in 14- and 21-d-old pigs, compared with 1- and 3-d-old pigs. There were no postnatal changes (P > 0.05) in plasma concentrations of other amino acids. Plasma concentrations of ammonia increased (P < 0.01) by 18 and 46%, whereas those of nitrate plus nitrite decreased (P < 0.01) by 16 and 29%, in 7- and 14-d-old pigs, respectively, compared with 1- to 3-d-old pigs. Because arginine plays a crucial role in ammonia detoxification via the hepatic urea cycle and is the physiological substrate for nitric oxide synthesis, our results of the decreased plasma concentrations of arginine and nitrate plus nitrite, as well as the increased plasma ammonia concentration, indicate a hitherto unrecognized deficiency of arginine in 7- to 21-d-old suckling pigs. Arginine is an essential amino acid for piglets and has a great potential to enhance neonatal growth; therefore, further studies are necessary to elucidate the mechanism responsible for arginine deficiency in sow-reared piglets and to identify hormonal and metabolic means for improving neonatal arginine nutrition and growth.