Arginine (ARG) is an amino acid (AA) with unique properties and with a key-role in the metabolic, immune and reparative response to trauma and sepsis. This study has been performed to characterize the correlations between plasma levels of ARG, of other AA and of multiple metabolic variables in trauma and sepsis. Two-hundred and sixty-three plasma amino-acidograms with a large series of additional biochemical and blood variables were obtained consecutively in 9 trauma patients who developed sepsis, undergoing total parenteral nutrition with dextrose, fat and a mixed AA solution containing 10.4% arginine. ARG was low soon after trauma, then it increased with increasing distance from trauma and with the development of sepsis. ARG was also directly related to the AA infusion rate (AAIR) and for any given AAIR, was lower after trauma than after the development of sepsis. ARG was also related directly to the plasma levels of most of the other AA, the best correlation being that with lysine (r(2) = 0.81, p < 0.001). These correlations were often shifted downwards (showing lower ARG for any given level of the other AA) in measurements performed after trauma, compared to those performed after development of sepsis; this effect was more pronounced for the correlations with branched chain AA. Correlations between ARG and non-AA variables were not particularly relevant. The best simultaneous correlates of ARG, among variables involved in plasma ARG availability, were citrulline level, AAIR and urinary 3-methylhistidine excretion (accounting for the effect of endogenous proteolysis) (multiple r(2) = 0.70, p < 0.001). Plasma ornithine (ORN), the AA more specifically linked to ARG metabolism, correlated with AAIR better than ARG and, for any given AAIR, was lower after trauma than after the development of sepsis. Correlations of ORN with other AA levels were poorer than those found for ARG, however ORN was directly related to white blood cell and platelet count, fibrinogen, transferrin, cholesterol and many AA clearances. These data show that changes in ARG in trauma and sepsis are correlated with changes in other AA and, within these correlations, reconfirm a tendency to lower ARG in trauma compared to sepsis. The strong correlation with lysine warrants a deeper assessment of the practical implications of interdependency between these two AA. The data also suggest that changes in plasma ORN in trauma and sepsis may reflect adequacy of AA substrate to support acute-phase and other synthetic processes.
- Amino Acids