Gut fuel utilisation has several unique features. Arterial and luminal fuels provide nutrition for the enterocyte, the former being of more importance. This factor, and the heterogeneity of cell types within the gut makes it difficult to define its fuel utilisation. Metabolic control logic suggests that modulation of the maximal activity of any pathway resides in those enzymes that operate in vivo at rates far below their maximal capacity and that catalyse non-equilibrium reactions. On this basis, although enterocyte hexokinase activity is much higher than in other 'glycolytic' cells (for example, brain), potentially high rates of glucose utilisation are modulated by substrate cycling of glucose 6-phosphate back to glucose through glucose 6-phosphatase. Glutamine metabolism proceeds by glutaminase to produce glutamate, which may then be transaminated (aspartate-aminotransferase and alanine-amino transferase) to produce alpha-ketoglutarate, alanine, and aspartate. The end products of glutamine metabolism by incubated gut preparations in vitro (mainly alanine), suggests that enterocytes, not immune cells, are responsible for most gut glutamine metabolism. High flux rates of glucose and glutamine metabolism in the enterocyte may result from the need for de novo synthesis of purines and pyrimidines and ribose sugars for nucleic acid synthesis. Sepsis reduces rates of glucose and glutamine metabolism, perhaps to preserve the increased consumption of these fuels by activated lymphocytes and macrophages in the gut wall.
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