Metabolism of Amino Acids in the Brain and Their Roles in Regulating Food Intake
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Amino acids (AAs) and their metabolites play an important role in neurological health and function. They are not only the building blocks of protein but are also neurotransmitters. In the brain, glutamate and aspartate are the major excitatory neurotransmitters, whereas γ-aminobutyrate (GABA, a metabolite of glutamate) and glycine are the major inhibitory neurotransmitters. Nitric oxide (NO, a metabolite of arginine), H2S (a metabolite of cysteine), serotonin (a metabolite of tryptophan) and histamine (a metabolite of histidine), as well as dopamine and norepinephrine (metabolites of tyrosine) are neurotransmitters to modulate synaptic plasticity, neuronal activity, learning, motor control, motivational behavior, emotion, and executive function. Concentrations of glutamine (a precursor of glutamate and aspartate), branched-chain AAs (precursors of glutamate, glutamine and aspartate), L-serine (a precursor of glycine and D-serine), methionine and phenylalanine in plasma are capable of affecting neurotransmission through the syntheses of glutamate, aspartate, and glycine, as well as the competitive transport of tryptophan and tyrosine across from the blood-brain barrier. Adequate consumption of AAs is crucial to maintain their concentrations and the production of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. Thus, the content and balance of AAs in diets have a profound impact on food intake by animals. Knowledge of AA transport and metabolism in the brain is beneficial for improving the health and well-being of humans and animals.
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