The metabolic burden of creatine synthesis

Abstract

Creatine synthesis is required in adult animals to replace creatine that is spontaneously converted to creatinine and excreted in the urine. Additionally, in growing animals it is necessary to provide creatine to the expanding tissue mass. Creatine synthesis requires three amino acids: glycine, methionine and arginine, and three enzymes: l-arginine:glycine amidinotransferase (AGAT), methionine adenosyltransferase (MAT) and guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT). The entire glycine molecule is consumed in creatine synthesis but only the methyl and amidino groups, respectively, from methionine and arginine. Creatinine loss averages approximately 2 g (14.6 mmol) for 70 kg males in the 20- to 39-year age group. Creatinine loss is lower in females and in older age groups because of lower muscle mass. Approximately half of this creatine lost to creatinine can be replaced, in omnivorous individuals, by dietary creatine. However, since dietary creatine is only provided in animal products, principally in meat and fish, virtually all of the creatine loss in vegetarians must be replaced via endogenous synthesis. Creatine synthesis does not appear to place a major burden on glycine metabolism in adults since this amino acid is readily synthesized. However, creatine synthesis does account for approximately 40% of all of the labile methyl groups provided by S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) and, as such, places an appreciable burden on the provision of such methyl groups, either from the diet or via de novo methylneogenesis. Creatine synthesis consumes some 20–30% of arginine’s amidino groups, whether provided in the diet or synthesized within the body. Creatine synthesis is, therefore, a quantitatively major pathway in amino acid metabolism and imposes an appreciable burden on the metabolism of methionine and of arginine.

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Acknowledgments

The authors’ work was supported by Grant # MOP 97851 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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Correspondence to John T. Brosnan.

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Brosnan, J.T., da Silva, R.P. & Brosnan, M.E. The metabolic burden of creatine synthesis. Amino Acids 40, 1325–1331 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-011-0853-y

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Keywords

  • Arginine
  • Glycine
  • Methionine
  • S-Adenosyl methionine
  • Methyl balance
  • Liver
  • Kidney