Glutamine (symbol Gln or Q) is an α-amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. Its side chain is similar to that of glutamic acid, except the carboxylic acid group is replaced by an amide. It is classified as a charge-neutral, polar amino acid. It is non-essential and conditionally essential in humans, meaning the body can usually synthesize sufficient amounts of it, but in some instances of stress, the body's demand for glutamine increases, and glutamine must be obtained from the diet. It is encoded by the codons CAA and CAG.
3D model (JSmol)
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
|Molar mass||146.146 g·mol−1|
|Melting point||decomposes around 185°C|
Solubility in water
|Acidity (pKa)||2.2 (carboxyl), 9.1 (amino)|
Chiral rotation ([α]D)
|+6.5º (H2O, c = 2)|
|Supplementary data page|
|Refractive index (n),|
Dielectric constant (εr), etc.
|UV, IR, NMR, MS|
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
In human blood, glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid.
The dietary sources of glutamine includes especially the protein-rich foods like beef, chicken, fish, dairy products, eggs, vegetables like beans, beets, cabbage, spinach, carrots, parsley, vegetable juices and also in wheat, papaya, Brussels sprouts, celery, kale and fermented foods like miso.
Glutamine plays a role in a variety of biochemical functions:
- Protein synthesis, as any other of the 20 proteinogenic amino acids
- Lipid synthesis, especially by cancer cells.
- Regulation of acid-base balance in the kidney by producing ammonium
- Cellular energy, as a source, next to glucose
- Nitrogen donation for many anabolic processes, including the synthesis of purines
- Carbon donation, as a source, refilling the citric acid cycle
- Nontoxic transporter of ammonia in the blood circulation
- Precursor to the neurotransmitter glutamate
On the level of tissue, glutamine plays a role in maintaining the normal integrity of the intestinal mucosa. but randomised trials provide no evidence of any benefit of nutritional supplementation.
Glutamine is produced industrially using mutants of Brevibacterium flavum, which gives ca. 40 g/L in 2 days using glucose as a carbon source. Glutamine is synthesized by the enzyme glutamine synthetase from glutamate and ammonia. The most relevant glutamine-producing tissue is the muscle mass, accounting for about 90% of all glutamine synthesized. Glutamine is also released, in small amounts, by the lungs and brain. Although the liver is capable of relevant glutamine synthesis, its role in glutamine metabolism is more regulatory than producing, since the liver takes up large amounts of glutamine derived from the gut.
The most eager consumers of glutamine are the cells of intestines, the kidney cells for the acid-base balance, activated immune cells, and many cancer cells.
Glutamine is the most abundant naturally occurring, nonessential amino acid in the human body, and one of the few amino acids that can directly cross the blood–brain barrier. Humans obtain glutamine through catabolism of proteins in foods they eat. In states where tissue is being built or repaired, like growth of babies, or healing from wounds or severe illness, glutamine becomes conditionally essential.
Sickle cell disease
In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved L-glutamine oral powder, marketed as Endari, to reduce severe complications of sickle cell disease in people aged 5 years and older with the disorder.
Glutamine is marketed as medical food and is prescribed when a medical professional believes a person in their care needs supplementary glutamine due to metabolic demands beyond what can be met by endogenous synthesis or diet.
Glutamine is safe in adults and in preterm infants. Although glutamine is metabolized to glutamate and ammonia, both of which have neurological effects, their concentrations are not increased much, and no adverse neurological effects were detected. The observed safe level for supplemental L-glutamine in normal healthy adults is 14 g/day.
Adverse effects of glutamine have been described for people receiving home parenteral nutrition and those with liver-function abnormalities. Although glutamine has no effect on the proliferation of tumor cells, it is still possible that glutamine supplementation may be detrimental in some cancer types.
Ceasing glutamine supplementation in people adapted to very high consumption may initiate a withdrawal effect, raising the risk of health problems such as infections or impaired integrity of the intestine.
Glutamine can exist in either of two enantiomeric forms, L-glutamine and D-glutamine. The L-form is found in nature. Glutamine contains an α-amino group which is in the protonated −NH3+ form under biological conditions and a carboxylic acid group which is in the deprotonated −COO− form, known as carboxylate, under physiological conditions.
Glutamine supplementation was thought to have potential to reduce complications in people who are critically ill or who have had abdominal surgery but this was based on poor quality clinical trials. Supplementation does not appear to be useful in adults or children with Crohn's disease or inflammatory bowel disease, but clinical studies as of 2016 were underpowered. Supplementation does not appear to have an effect in infants with significant problems of the stomach or intestines.
Some athletes use L-glutamine as supplement. Studies support the positive effects of the chronic oral administration of the supplement on the injury and inflammation induced by intense aerobic and exhaustive exercise, but the effects on muscle recovery from weight training are unclear.
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- Glutamine spectra acquired through mass spectroscopy