N-acetylglutamate (NAG) is an endogenous essential cofactor for conversion of ammonia to urea in the liver. Deficiency of NAG causes hyperammonemia and occurs because of inherited deficiency of its producing enzyme, NAG synthase (NAGS), or interference with its function by short fatty acid derivatives. N-carbamylglutamate (NCG) can ameliorate hyperammonemia from NAGS deficiency and propionic and methylmalonic acidemia. We developed a stable isotope C tracer method to measure ureagenesis and to evaluate the effect of NCG in humans. Seventeen healthy adults were investigated for the incorporation of C label into urea. [C]urea appeared in the blood within minutes, reaching maximum by 100 min, whereas breath CO2 reached a maximum by 60 min. A patient with NAGS deficiency showed very little urea labeling before treatment with NCG and normal labeling thereafter. Correspondingly, plasma levels of ammonia and glutamine decreased markedly and urea tripled after NCG treatment. Similarly, in a patient with propionic acidemia, NCG treatment resulted in a marked increase in urea labeling and decrease in glutamine, alanine, and glycine. These results provide a reliable method for measuring the effect of NCG on nitrogen metabolism and strongly suggest that NCG could be an effective treatment for inherited and secondary NAGS deficiency.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health