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Production of 1-carbon units from glycine is extensive in healthy men and women

Glycine undergoes decarboxylation in the glycine cleavage system (GCS) to yield CO(2), NH(3), and a 1-carbon unit. CO(2) also can be generated from the 2-carbon of glycine by 10-formyltetrahydrofolate-dehydrogenase and, after glycine-to-serine conversion by serine hydroxymethyltransferase, from the tricarboxylic acid cycle. To evaluate the relative fates of glycine carbons in CO(2) generation in healthy volunteers (3 male, 3 female, aged 21-26 y), primed, constant infusions were conducted using 9.26 micromol x h(-1) x kg(-1) of [1,2-(13)C]glycine and 1.87 micromol x h(-1) x kg(-1) of [5,5,5-(2)H(3)]leucine, followed by an infusion protocol using [1-(13)C]glycine as the glycine tracer. The time period between the infusion protocols was >6 mo. In vivo rates of whole-body glycine and leucine flux were nearly identical in protocols with [1,2-(13)C]glycine and [5,5,5-(2)H(3)]leucine and with [1-(13)C]glycine and [5,5,5-(2)H(3)]leucine tracers, which showed high reproducibility between the tracer protocols. Using the [1-(13)C]glycine tracer, breath CO(2) data showed a total rate of glycine decarboxylation of 96 +/- 8 micromol x h(-1) x kg(-1), which was 22 +/- 3% of whole-body glycine flux. In contrast, infusion of [1,2-(13)C]glycine yielded a glycine-to-CO(2) flux of 146 +/- 37 micromol x h(-1) x kg(-1) (P = 0.026). By difference, this implies a rate of CO(2) formation from the glycine 2-carbon of 51 +/- 40 micromol x h(-1) x kg(-1), which accounts for approximately 35% of the total CO(2) generated in glycine catabolism. These findings also indicate that approximately 65% of the CO(2) generation from glycine occurs by decarboxylation, primarily from the GCS. Further, these results suggest that the GCS is responsible for the entry of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate into 1-carbon metabolism at a very high rate ( approximately 96 micromol x h(-1) x kg(-1)), which is approximately 20 times the demand for methyl groups for homocysteine remethylation.


Lamers, Y., Williamson, J., Theriaque, D. W., Shuster, J. J., Gilbert, L. R., Keeling, C., ... Gregory, J. F. (2009). Production of 1-carbon units from glycine is extensive in healthy men and women. Journal of Nutrition, 139(4), 666-671. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.108.103580

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