Supplemental L-glutamine's possible immunomodulatory role may be accounted for in a number of ways. L-glutamine appears to play a major role in protecting the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract and, in particular, the large intestine. During catabolic states, the integrity of the intestinal mucosa may be compromised with consequent increased intestinal permeability and translocation of Gram-negative bacteria from the large intestine into the body. The demand for L-glutamine by the intestine, as well as by cells such as lymphocytes, appears to be much greater than that supplied by skeletal muscle, the major storage tissue for L-glutamine. L-glutamine is the preferred respiratory fuel for enterocytes, colonocytes and lymphocytes. Therefore, supplying supplemental L-glutamine under these conditions may do a number of things. For one, it may reverse the catabolic state by sparing skeletal muscle L-glutamine. It also may inhibit translocation of Gram-negative bacteria from the large intestine. L-glutamine helps maintain secretory IgA, which functions primarily by preventing the attachment of bacteria to mucosal cells. L-glutamine appears to be required to support the proliferation of mitogen-stimulated lymphocytes, as well as the production of interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). It is also required for the maintenance of lymphokine-activated killer cells (LAK). L-glutamine can enhance phagocytosis by neutrophils and monocytes. It can lead to an increased synthesis of glutathione in the intestine, which may also play a role in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal mucosa by ameliorating oxidative stress. The exact mechanism of the possible immunomodulatory action of supplemental L-glutamine, however, remains unclear. It is conceivable that the major effect of L-glutamine occurs at the level of the intestine. Perhaps enteral L-glutamine acts directly on intestine-associated lymphoid tissue and stimulates overall immune function by that mechanism, without passing beyond the splanchnic bed.
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CTP synthase 1