Nutrition and Functions of Amino Acids in Fish
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Aquaculture is increasingly important for providing humans with high-quality animal protein to improve growth, development and health. Farm-raised fish and shellfish now exceed captured fisheries for foods. More than 70% of the production cost is dependent on the supply of compound feeds. A public debate or concern over aquaculture is its environmental sustainability as many fish species have high requirements for dietary protein and fishmeal. Protein or amino acids (AAs), which are the major component of tissue growth, are generally the most expensive nutrients in animal production and, therefore, are crucial for aquatic feed development. There is compelling evidence that an adequate supply of both traditionally classified nutritionally essential amino acids (EAAs) and non-essential amino acids (NEAAs) in diets improve the growth, development and production performance of aquatic animals (e.g., larval metamorphosis). The processes for the utilization of dietary AAs or protein utilization by animals include digestion, absorption and metabolism. The digestibility and bioavailability of AAs should be carefully evaluated because feed production processes and AA degradation in the gut affect the amounts of dietary AAs that enter the blood circulation. Absorbed AAs are utilized for the syntheses of protein, peptides, AAs, and other metabolites (including nucleotides); biological oxidation and ATP production; gluconeogenesis and lipogenesis; and the regulation of acid-base balance, anti-oxidative reactions, and immune responses. Fish producers usually focus on the content or digestibility of dietary crude protein without considering the supply of AAs in the diet. In experiments involving dietary supplementation with AAs, inappropriate AAs (e.g., glycine and glutamate) are often used as the isonitrogenous control. At present, limited knowledge is available about either the cell- and tissue-specific metabolism of AAs or the effects of feed processing methods on the digestion and utilization of AAs in different fish species. These issues should be addressed to develop environment-friendly aquafeeds and reduce feed costs to sustain the global aquaculture.