Alanine is one of the simplest of amino acids and is involved in the energy-producing breakdown of glucose. Alanine itself is a product of the breakdown of DNA or the dipeptides anserine and carnosine, and the conversion of pyruvate, a pivotal compound in carbohydrate metabolism. Alanine plays a major role in the transfer of nitrogen from peripheral tissue to the liver, helps in reducing the buildup of toxic substances that are released into muscle cells when muscle protein is broken down quickly to meet energy needs, and strengthens the immune system through the production of antibodies. Measurement of alanine is included in the Amino Acids, Plasma and Amino Acids, Urine tests along with 23 other amino acids.
Alanine (Ala/A) is a non-essential amino acid produced in the body either from the conversion of pyruvic acid derived from carbohydrates or from the breakdown of DNA and the dipeptides carnosine and anserine. It has a high concentration in the muscles and is one of the most important amino acids released by the muscles, acting as a main source of energy. Plasma alanine is often reduced when the concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) is reduced, a finding that may be relevant to muscle metabolism.
Alanine is an important amino acid in the regulation of glucose metabolism (Alanine-Glucose cycle). Alanine levels go hand by hand with blood sugar levels in both diabetes and hypoglycemia and in addition alanine can reduce both severe hypoglycemia and diabetic ketosis. It is an important amino acid for the reproduction of lymphocytes and the functioning of the immune system.
The normal metabolism of alanine, like other amino acids, is largely dependent on enzymes containing vitamin B6. Alanine, like GABA, taurine, and glycine, is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. L-alanine has been found to be associated with glycogen deficiency, which is an inborn error of metabolism.
Alanine is found in particularly high amounts in meat products and other high-protein foods such as wheat malt and cottage cheese.
Low levels of alanine may indicate hypoglycemic states because of its role in gluconeogenesis. Supplementation of alanine and branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) may be needed.