Ruminal microbes of adult sheep do not degrade extracellular l-citrulline.
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This study determined whether extracellular citrulline is degraded by ruminal bacteria of sheep. In the first experiment, whole rumen fluid (3 mL) from six adult Suffolk sheep was incubated at 37 °C with 5 mM l-glutamine (Gln), l-glutamate (Glu), l-arginine (Arg), or l-citrulline (Cit) for 0, 0.5, 1, and 2 h or with 0, 0.5, 2, or 5 mM Gln, Glu, Arg, or Cit for 2 h. An aliquot (50 µL) of the incubation solution was collected at the predetermined time points for amino acids (AA) analyses. Results showed extensive hydrolysis of Gln into Glu and ammonia, of Arg into l-ornithine and l-proline, but little or no degradation of extracellular Cit or Glu by ruminal microbes. In the second experiment, six adult Suffolk sheep were individually fed each of three separate supplements (8 g Gln , Cit, or urea) on three separate days along with regular feed (800 g/animal). Blood (2 mL) was sampled from the jugular vein prior to feeding (time 0) and at 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 h after consuming the supplement. Plasma was analyzed for AA, glucose, ammonia, and urea. The concentrations of Cit in the plasma of sheep consuming this AA increased (P < 0.001) by 117% at 4 h and those of Arg increased by 23% at 4 h, compared with the baseline values. Urea or Gln feeding did not affect (P > 0.05) the concentrations of Cit or Arg in plasma. These results indicate that Cit is not metabolized by ruminal microbes of sheep and is, therefore, absorbed as such by the small intestine and used for the synthesis of Arg by extrahepatic tissues.