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Ornithine

Ornithine

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Encyclopedia
Ornithine is an amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

 that plays a role in 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...

.

Role in urea cycle


L-Ornithine is one of the products of the action of the enzyme arginase
Arginase
Arginase is a manganese-containing enzyme. The reaction catalyzed by this enzyme is: arginine + H2O → ornithine + urea. It is the final enzyme of the urea cycle.- Structure and function :Arginase belong to the ureohydrolase family of enzymes....

 on L-arginine
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...

, creating urea
Urea
Urea or carbamide is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO2. The molecule has two —NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl functional group....

. Therefore, ornithine is a central part of the urea cycle, which allows for the disposal of excess nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

. Ornithine is recycled and, in a manner, is a catalyst. First, ammonia is converted into carbamoyl phosphate
Carbamoyl phosphate
Carbamoyl phosphate is an anion of biochemical significance. In land-dwelling animals it is an intermediary metabolite participating in the nitrogen disposal through in the urea cycle and the synthesis of pyrimidines....

 (phosphate-CONH2), which creates one half of urea. Ornithine is converted into a urea derivative at the δ (terminal) nitrogen by carbamoyl phosphate. Another nitrogen is added from aspartate, producing the denitrogenated fumarate, and the resulting arginine
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...

 (a guanidinium compound) is hydrolysed back to ornithine, producing urea. The nitrogens of urea come from the ammonia and aspartate, and the nitrogen in ornithine remains intact.


Ornithine is not an amino acid coded for by DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

, and, in that sense, is not involved in protein synthesis
Protein biosynthesis
Protein biosynthesis is the process in which cells build or manufacture proteins. The term is sometimes used to refer only to protein translation but more often it refers to a multi-step process, beginning with amino acid synthesis and transcription of nuclear DNA into messenger RNA, which is then...

. However, in mammalian non-hepatic tissues, the main use of the urea cycle is in arginine biosynthesis, so, as an intermediate in metabolic processes, ornithine is quite important. It is believed not to be a part of genetic code because polypeptides containing unprotected ornithines undergo spontaneous lactamization.


Other reactions


Ornithine, via the action of ornithine decarboxylase
Ornithine decarboxylase
The enzyme ornithine decarboxylase catalyzes the decarboxylation of ornithine to form putrescine. This reaction is the committed step in polyamine synthesis. In humans, this protein has 461 amino acids and forms a homodimer....

 (E.C. 4.1.1.17), is the starting point for the synthesis of polyamine
Polyamine
A polyamine is an organic compound having two or more primary amino groups .This class of compounds includes several synthetic substances that are important feedstocks for the chemical industry, such as ethylene diamine , 1,3-diaminopropane , and hexamethylenediamine...

s such as putrescine
Putrescine
Putrescine is a foul-smelling organic chemical compound NH24NH2 that is related to cadaverine; both are produced by the breakdown of amino acids in living and dead organisms and both are toxic in large doses...

.

In bacteria, such as E. coli
Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms . Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning in humans, and are occasionally responsible for product recalls...

, ornithine can be synthesized from L-glutamate
Glutamic acid
Glutamic acid is one of the 20 proteinogenic amino acids, and its codons are GAA and GAG. It is a non-essential amino acid. The carboxylate anions and salts of glutamic acid are known as glutamates...

.

Ornithine is also the starting point for cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 biosynthesis, when decarboxylased, then modified greatly by Cytochrome P450.