Serine metabolism in human pregnancy

Satish C. Kalhan, Lourdes L. Gruca, Prabhu S. Parimi, Alicia O'Brien, Leroy Dierker, Ed Burkett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Serine plays an important role in intermediary metabolism as a source of one carbon pool for nucleotide biosynthesis, as a precursor for glycine and glucose, and as a contributor to cysteine biosynthesis. A unique serine-glycine cycling between the liver and the placenta has been demonstrated in the sheep fetus. We hypothesized that, because of serine's role in growth and development, significant changes in serine metabolism will occur in pregnancy with advancing gestation. The rate of appearance (Ra) of serine and its metabolism were quantified in healthy women longitudinally through pregnancy with a [2-15N13C]serine tracer. The contribution of serine N to urea and the rate of oxidation of serine were measured using the precursor-product relation. Plasma serine concentrations and serine Ra were lower in pregnant (P) women, in both early and late gestation, compared with nonpregnant (NP) women [plasma serine: NP, 113 ± 24.5; P early, 71.9 ± 6.2; P late, 68.5 ± 9.6 μmol/l; serine Ra: NP (n = 7), 152.9 ± 42.8; P early (n = 12), 123.7 ± 21.5; P late (n = 8), 102.8 ± 18.2 μmol·kg-1·h-1]. Serine contributed ∼6% to urea N and 15-20% to the plasma glycine pool, and oxidation of serine represented ∼8% of Ra. There was no significant difference between P and NP subjects. Glucose infusion, at 3 mg·kg-1 in P subjects, resulted in a decrease in serine Ra and an increase in oxidation. The decrease in serine turnover in pregnancy may represent a decrease in a-amino nitrogen turnover related to a decreased rate of branched-chain amino acid transamination and caused by pregnancy-related hormones aimed at nitrogen conservation and accretion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E733-E740
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4 47-4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Stable isotopes
  • Urea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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