What is L-Alanine?
Alanine (abbreviated as Ala or A) is an á-amino acid with the chemical formula CH3CH(NH2)COOH. The L-isomer is one of the 20 proteinogenic amino acids, i.e. the building blocks of proteins.
Its codons are GCU, GCC, GCA, and GCG. It is classified as a non-polar amino acid. L-alanine is second only to leucine, accounting for 7.8% of the primary structure in a sample of 1,150 proteins. D-alanine occurs in bacterial cell walls and in some peptide antibiotics.
The á-carbon atom of alanine is bound with a methyl group (-CH3), making it one of the simplest á-amino acids with respect to molecular structure and also resulting in alanine being classified as an aliphatic amino acid. The methyl group of alanine is non-reactive and is thus almost never directly involved in protein function.
Alanine is a nonessential amino acid, meaning it can be manufactured by the human body, and does not need to be obtained directly through the diet. Alanine is found in a wide variety of foods, but is particularly concentrated in meats.
Good sources of alanine include:
Animal sources: meat, seafood, caseinate, dairy products, eggs, fish, gelatin, lactalbumin
Vegetarian sources: beans, nuts, seeds, soy, whey, brewer's yeast, brown rice bran, corn, legumes, whole grains.
Alanine can be manufactured in the body from pyruvate and branched chain amino acids such as valine, leucine, and isoleucine.
Alanine is most commonly produced by reductive amination of pyruvate. Because transamination reactions are readily reversible and pyruvate pervasive, alanine can be easily formed and thus has close links to metabolic pathways such as glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, and the citric acid cycle. It also arises together with lactate and generates glucose from protein via the alanine cycle.
Racemic alanine can be prepared via the condensation of acetaldehyde with ammonium chloride in the presence of potassium cyanide by the Strecker reaction.
As a carrier of ammonia and of the carbon skeleton of pyruvate in alanine cycle
Alanine plays a key role in glucose-alanine cycle between tissues and liver. In muscle and other tissues that degrade amino acids for fuel, amino groups are collected in the form of glutamate by transamination.
Glutamate can then transfer its amino group through the action of alanine aminotransferase to pyruvate, a product of muscle glycolysis, forming alanine and alpha-ketoglutarate. The alanine formed is passed into the blood and transported to the liver. A reverse of the alanine aminotransferase reaction takes place in liver.
Pyruvate regenerated forms glucose through gluconeogenesis, which returns to muscle through the circulation system. Glutamate in the liver enters mitochondria and degrades into ammonium ion through the action of glutamate dehydrogenase, which in turn participate in the urea cycle to form urea.
Glucose-alanine cycle enables pyruvate and glutamate to be removed from muscle and find their ways to liver. Glucose is able to be regenerated from pyruvate and returned to muscle. The energetic burden of gluconeogenesis is thus imposed on the liver instead of the muscle. All available ATP in muscle is devoted to muscle contraction.
Do we really need it?
Because alanine is used by the body to draw upon blood sugar as an energy source, it may prove useful for bodybuilders and other athletes who are attempting to reduce body fat levels. For the same reason, individuals who are obese or overweight may benefit by using a supplement containing alanine. When used in conjunction with arginine and glycine it has been demonstrated that an overall reduction in arterial plaque may result.
Diabetics, or individuals suffering from insulin insensitivity, may benefit from supplementing with alanine. Alanine has been shown to be important for the regulation of insulin.2 Alanine is also known to contribute to prostate health. For this reason, elderly males may benefit from its use.
No side effects have been reported, although as with any amino-acid, overdose is a possibility. Individuals suffering from diabetes, prostatitis or hypertension should consult a qualified medical practitioner prior to the use of supplemental L-alanine. Follow the directions as prescribed on the products label.
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