Phenylalanine hydroxylation is necessary for the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine and disposal of excess phenylalanine. Studies of in vivo regulation of phenylalanine hydroxylation suffer from the lack of a method to determine intrahepatocyte enrichment of phenylalanine and tyrosine. apoB-100, a hepatic export protein, is synthesized from intrahepatocyte amino acids. We designed an in vivo multi-isotope study, [15N]phenylalanine and [2H2]tyrosine to determine rates of phenylalanine hydroxylation from plasma enrichments in free amino acids and apoB-100. For independent verification of apoB-100 as a reflection of enrichment in the intrahepatocyte pool, [1-13C]lysine was used as an indicator amino acid (IAA) to measure in vivo changes in protein synthesis in response to tyrosine supplementation. Adult men (n = 6) were fed an amino acid-based diet with low phenylalanine (9 mg·kg-1·day-1, 4.54 μmol·kg-1·,h-1) and seven graded intakes of tyrosine from 2.5 (deficient) to 12.5 (excess) mg·kg -1·day-1. Gas chromatography-quadrupole mass spectrometry did not detect any tracer in apoB-100 tyrosine. A new and more sensitive method to measure label enrichment in proteins using isotope ratio mass spectrometry demonstrated that phenylalanine hydroxylation measured in apoB-100 decreased linearly in response to increasing tyrosine intake and reached a break point at 6.8 mg·kg-1·day-1. IAA oxidation decreased with increased tyrosine intake and reached a break point at 6.0 mg·kg-1·day-1. We conclude: apoB-100 is an accurate and useful measure of changes in phenylalanine hydroxylation; the synthesis of tyrosine via phenylalanine hydroxylation is regulated to meet the needs for protein synthesis; and that plasma phenylalanine does not reflect changes in protein synthesis. Copyright © 2008 the American Physiological Society
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