Reduced expression of intestinal N-acetylglutamate synthase in suckling piglets: a novel molecular mechanism for arginine as a nutritionally essential amino acid for neonates. Academic Article uri icon


  • The objective of this study was to determine developmental changes in mRNA and protein levels for N-acetylglutamate synthase (NAGS; a key enzyme in synthesis of citrulline and arginine from glutamine/glutamate and proline) in the small intestine of suckling piglets. The porcine NAGS gene was cloned using the real-time polymerase-chain reaction (RT-PCR) method. The porcine NAGS gene encoded 368 amino acid residues and had a high degree of sequence similarity to the "conserved domain" of human and mouse NAGS genes. The porcine NAGS gene was expressed in E. coli BL21 and a polyclonal antibody against the porcine NAGS protein was developed. Real-time RT-PCR and western-blot analyses were performed to quantify NAGS mRNA and protein, respectively, in the jejunum and ileum of 1- to 28-day-old pigs. Results indicated that intestinal NAGS mRNA levels were lower in 7- to 28-day-old than in 1-day-old pigs. Immunochemical analysis revealed that NAGS protein was localized in enterocytes of the gut. Notably, intestinal NAGS protein abundance declined progressively during the 28-day suckling period. The postnatal decrease in NAGS protein levels was consistent with the previous report of reduced NAGS enzymatic activity as well as reduced synthesis of citrulline and arginine in the small intestine of 7- to 28-day-old pigs. Collectively, these results suggest that intestinal NAGS expression is regulated primarily at the post-transcriptional level. The findings also provide a new molecular basis to explain that endogenous synthesis of arginine is impaired in sow-reared piglets and arginine is a nutritionally essential amino acid for the neonates.

published proceedings

  • Amino Acids

author list (cited authors)

  • Geng, M., Li, T., Kong, X., Song, X., Chu, W., Huang, R., Yin, Y., & Wu, G.

citation count

  • 39

complete list of authors

  • Geng, Meimei||Li, Tiejun||Kong, Xiangfeng||Song, Xiaoyan||Chu, Wuying||Huang, Ruilin||Yin, Yulong||Wu, Guoyao

publication date

  • May 2011