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The Urea Cycle

Describe the Urea Cycle and the regulation process within this cycle? Demonstrate the Urea Cycle through a brief case study.

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The urea cycle (also known as the ornithine cycle) is a cycle of biochemical reactions occurring in many animals that produces urea from ammonia (NH3). This cycle was the first metabolic cycle discovered (Krebs and Kurt Henseleit, 1932). In mammals, the urea cycle takes place only in the liver.


Organisms that cannot easily and quickly remove ammonia usually have to convert it to some other substance, like urea or uric acid, which are much less toxic. Insufficiency of the urea cycle occurs in some genetic disorders (inborn errors of metabolism), and in liver failure. The result of liver failure is accumulation of nitrogenous waste, mainly ammonia, which leads to hepatic encephalopathy.

The urea cycle consists of five reactions - two mitochondrial and three cytosolic. The cycle converts two amino groups, one from NH4+ and one from Asp, and a carbon atom from HCO3-, to relatively nontoxic excretion product, urea, at the cost of four "high-energy" phosphate bonds (3 ATP hydrolyzed to 2 ADP and one AMP). Orn is the carrier of these carbon and nitrogen atoms.

See charts that illustrate the cycle at


1. NAcGlu

The synthesis of carbamoyl phosphate and the urea cycle are dependent on the presence of NAcGlu, which allosterically activates CPS1. Synthesis of NAcGlu by NAGS, is stimulated by Arg - allosteric stimulator of NAGS, and Glu - a product in the transamination reactions and one of NAGS's substrates, both of which are elevated when free amino acids are elevated. So, Arg is not only a substrate for the urea cycle reactions but also serves as an activator for the urea cycle.

2. Substrate concentrations

The remaining enzymes of the cycle are controlled by the concentrations of their substrates. Thus, inherited deficiencies in the cycle enzymes other than ARG1 do not result in significant decrease in urea production (the total lack of any cycle enzyme results in death shortly after birth). Rather, the deficient enzyme's substrate builds up, increasing the rate of the deficient reaction to ...

Solution Summary

This solution describes the Urea Cycle in terms of function and regulation process within this cycle. Supplemented with an extra reading section.