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PHYSIOLOGY OF THE AMINO ACIDS

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Science  13 Mar 1942:
Vol. 95, Issue 2463, pp. 259-263
DOI: 10.1126/science.95.2463.259

Abstract

We have followed the amino acids from their entrance into the alimentary tract in the form of food proteins through the successive steps of digestion, absorption into the blood stream and passage from the blood stream into the tissues, where they are concentrated by some unknown mechanism to many times their concentration in the blood plasma. We have seen something of the way in which certain of the amino acids can be transformed into one another in the body or synthesized from ammonia and keto acids. However, we have had to admit that our bodies can form in such ways only about half of the different amino acids that are required, and that the other half must be made for us by plants, bacteria or other organisms which have greater synthetic powers than we. And finally we have seen something of the manifold fates of the amino acids after they have entered our tissues; how they may be destroyed and their nitrogenous parts turned into urea in the liver before it is possible to put them to their more specialized uses, how their carbon fractions can be used to form glucose, how they may sacrifice themselves to protect us from toxic products, how they can serve as source material for certain vitamins, hormones and other compounds with physiological functions still to be identified, and how finally those amino acids which are not deflected to these various fates may enter into the proteins of the tissues and become for a time parts of our living structures.