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Differential ammonia metabolism and toxicity between avian and mammalian species, and effect of ammonia on skeletal muscle: A comparative review

Stern, Rachel A., Mozdziak, Paul E.
Journal of animal physiology and animal nutrition 2019 v.103 no.3 pp. 774-785
ammonia, apoptosis, birds, interspecific variation, liver, liver diseases, mammals, models, muscle development, muscles, muscular atrophy, myostatin, nitrogen, nucleic acids, patients, protein synthesis, skeletal muscle, toxicity
Comparative aspects of ammonia toxicity, specific to liver and skeletal muscle and skeletal muscle metabolism between avian and mammalian species are discussed in the context of models for liver disease and subsequent skeletal muscle wasting. The purpose of this review is to present species differences in ammonia metabolism and to specifically highlight observed differences in skeletal muscle response to excess ammonia in avian species. Ammonia, which is produced during protein catabolism and is an essential component of nucleic acid and protein biosynthesis, is detoxified mainly in the liver. While the liver is consistent as the main organ responsible for ammonia detoxification, there are evolutionary differences in ammonia metabolism and nitrogen excretory products between avian and mammalian species. In patients with liver disease and all mammalian models, inadequate ammonia detoxification and successive increased circulating ammonia concentration, termed hyperammonemia, leads to severe skeletal muscle atrophy, increased apoptosis and reduced protein synthesis, altogether having deleterious effects on muscle size and strength. Previously, an avian embryonic model, designed to determine the effects of increased circulating ammonia on muscle development, revealed that ammonia elicits a positive myogenic response. Specifically, induced hyperammonemia in avian embryos resulted in a reduction in myostatin, a well‐known inhibitor of muscle growth, expression, whereas myostatin expression is significantly increased in mammalian models of hyperammonemia. These interesting findings imply that species differences in ammonia metabolism allow avians to utilize ammonia for growth. Understanding the intrinsic physiological mechanisms that allow for ammonia to be utilized for growth has potential to reveal novel approaches to muscle growth in avian species and will provide new targets for preventing muscle degeneration in mammalian species.