Cortisol enhances citrulline synthesis from proline in enterocytes of suckling piglets

E. Lichar Dillon, Guoyao Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are marked decreases in plasma concentrations of cortisol and arginine (an essential amino acid for neonates) as well as intestinal citrulline synthesis in piglets during the first 14 days of life. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that increasing plasma cortisol concentrations by cortisol administration may prevent the decline in intestinal citrulline and arginine synthesis from proline, thereby possibly increasing plasma arginine concentration in suckling piglets and their growth. Seven-day-old pigs reared by sows received daily intramuscular injections of hydrocortisone 21-acetate (25 mg/kg) or vehicle solution (saline) (n = 10/group). At 14 days of age, piglets were used to prepare jejunal enterocytes. Cells were incubated at 37 °C for 30 min in oxygenated Krebs buffer containing 5 mM glucose, 2 mM [U-14C]proline, and 2 mM glutamine. Cortisol treatment increased plasma cortisol concentration, mitochondrial proline oxidase and N-acetylglutamate synthase activities, cytosolic argininosuccinate lyase activity, and the intracellular concentrations of N-acetylglutamate and carbamoyl phosphate for citrulline and arginine synthesis. However, cortisol treatment induced the expression of intestinal arginase-II for arginine hydrolysis, resulting in no change in plasma arginine concentration. Administration of cortisol had no effect on milk consumption or the whole-body growth rate of piglets, but increased villus height in the jejunum and ileum. Collectively, these results suggest an important role for proline oxidase and N-acetylglutamate in regulating citrulline and arginine synthesis from proline in pig enterocytes. Because proline catabolism plays an important role in modulating protein synthesis, cell proliferation, and arginine production, our findings may have important implications for understanding the role of proline oxidase in the growth and health of the mammalian small intestine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1957-1966
Number of pages10
JournalAmino Acids
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Amino acids
  • Development
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Metabolism
  • Small intestine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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