Leucine catabolism is regulated by either of the first two degradative steps: (reversible) transamination to the keto acid or subsequent decarboxylation. A method is described to measure rates of leucine transamination, reamination, and keto acid oxidation. The method is applied directly to humans by infusing the nonradioactive tracer, L-[15N,1-13C]leucine. Leucine transamination was found to be operating several times faster than the keto acid decarboxylation and to be of equal magnitude in adult human males under two different dietary conditions, postabsorptive and fed. These results indicate that decarboxylation, not transamination, is the rate-limiting step in normal human leucine metabolism.

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