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Argininosuccinate synthetase

Argininosuccinate synthetase

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Argininosuccinate synthase (ASS) is an enzyme that catalyzes the synthesis of argininosuccinate
Argininosuccinic acid
Argininosuccinic acid is a chemical compound that is a basic amino acid.-Reactions:Some cells synthesize argininosuccinic acid from citrulline and aspartic acid and use it as a precursor for arginine in the urea cycle or citrulline-NO cycle...

 from citrulline
The organic compound citrulline is an α-amino acid. Its name is derived from citrullus, the Latin word for watermelon, from which it was first isolated in 1930.It has the idealized formula H2NCNH3CHCO2H...

 and aspartate
Aspartic acid
Aspartic acid is an α-amino acid with the chemical formula HOOCCHCH2COOH. The carboxylate anion, salt, or ester of aspartic acid is known as aspartate. The L-isomer of aspartate is one of the 20 proteinogenic amino acids, i.e., the building blocks of proteins...

ASS is responsible for the third step of the urea cycle
Urea cycle
The urea cycle is a cycle of biochemical reactions occurring in many animals that produces urea from ammonia . This cycle was the first metabolic cycle discovered , five years before the discovery of the TCA cycle...

 and one of the reactions of the Citrulline-NO cycle.


The gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

 that encodes for this enzyme, ASS, is located on chromosome 9
Chromosome 9 (human)
125px|rightChromosome 9 is one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes in humans. People normally have two copies of this chromosome, as they normally do with all chromosomes...

. In humans, ASS is expressed mostly in the cells of liver
The liver is a vital organ present in vertebrates and some other animals. It has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion...

 and kidney
The kidneys, organs with several functions, serve essential regulatory roles in most animals, including vertebrates and some invertebrates. They are essential in the urinary system and also serve homeostatic functions such as the regulation of electrolytes, maintenance of acid–base balance, and...



Citrullinemia, also called citrullinuria, is an autosomal recessive urea cycle disorder that causes ammonia and other toxic substances to accumulate in the blood....

: At least 50 mutation
In molecular biology and genetics, mutations are changes in a genomic sequence: the DNA sequence of a cell's genome or the DNA or RNA sequence of a virus. They can be defined as sudden and spontaneous changes in the cell. Mutations are caused by radiation, viruses, transposons and mutagenic...

s that cause type I citrullinemia have been identified in the ASS gene. Most of these mutations substitute one amino acid for another in ASS. These mutations likely affect the structure of the enzyme and its ability to bind to citrulline, aspartate, and other molecules. A few mutations lead to the production of an abnormally short enzyme that cannot effectively play its role in the urea cycle.

Defects in ASS disrupt the third step of the urea cycle, preventing the liver from processing excess nitrogen into urea. As a result, nitrogen (in the form of ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

) and other byproducts of the urea cycle (such as citrulline) build up in the bloodstream. Ammonia is toxic, particularly to the nervous system
Nervous system
The nervous system is an organ system containing a network of specialized cells called neurons that coordinate the actions of an animal and transmit signals between different parts of its body. In most animals the nervous system consists of two parts, central and peripheral. The central nervous...

. An accumulation of ammonia during the first few days of life leads to poor feeding, vomiting
Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of the contents of one's stomach through the mouth and sometimes the nose...

, seizure
An epileptic seizure, occasionally referred to as a fit, is defined as a transient symptom of "abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain". The outward effect can be as dramatic as a wild thrashing movement or as mild as a brief loss of awareness...

s, and the other signs and symptoms of type I citrullinemia.

Treatment for this defect includes a low-protein diet and dietary supplementation with arginine
Arginine is an α-amino acid. The L-form is one of the 20 most common natural amino acids. At the level of molecular genetics, in the structure of the messenger ribonucleic acid mRNA, CGU, CGC, CGA, CGG, AGA, and AGG, are the triplets of nucleotide bases or codons that codify for arginine during...

 and phenylacetate. Arginine allows the urea cycle to complete itself, creating the substrates needed to originally fix ammonia. This will lower blood pH. Additionally, phenylacetate reacts with backed-up glutamine, resulting on phenylacetoglutamine, which can be excreted renally.

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