Secondary amino acid disturbances from circulatory responses during hypoxia may cause problems in interpreting plasma amino acid profiles of sick babies investigated for possible inherited defects. Systematic studies to characterise them are difficult in man. We investigated the effects of hypoxia on plasma amino acids by studying 9 late gestation fetal sheep in utero during 11 one hour episodes of moderately severe isocapnic hypoxia. In 6 experiments, maternal plasma amino acids were also monitored. Fourteen fetal plasma amino acids increased significantly, with the largest proportionate changes in alanine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, ornithine and lysine. Maternal amino acids did not increase. Probable explanations were reflex peripheral vasoconstriction in skeletal muscle beds and decreased hepatic blood flow. The findings extend our knowledge of the fetal response to hypoxic stress, demonstrate the importance of skeletal muscle in branched-chain amino acid metabolism, and should help with interpretation of postnatal plasma amino acid disturbances.
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