In healthy subjects the administration of an amino acid mixture devoid of tryptophan causes a marked decrease of plasma tryptophan. This is because amino acid mixtures induce protein synthesis and tryptophan in blood is incorporated into newly synthesized proteins. We hypothesized that a tryptophan-free mixture could differently affect plasma tryptophan levels in subjects with an impaired protein synthesis such as chronic liver patients. We studied tryptophan levels after a tryptophan-free amino acid solution in controls and cirrhotics fasting 12 hours. Plasma total tryptophan fell to 91% of the initial level 60 minutes after the administration of the diet, to 71% after 120 ′, and to 50% after 210′ in controls. In cirrhotics the solution caused a decrease of plasma tryptophan that began significantly later than in controls, the delay being proportional to the severity of the disease. Cirrhotics were subdivided into two groups in accordance to the Pugh modification of the Child-Turcotte criteria. Total plasma tryptophan was 100% of base line levels after 60′, 88% after 120′, and 65% after 210′ in less severe clinical condition; total plasma tryptophan was 102% of base line levels after 60′, 98% after 120′, and 75% after 210′ in more severe clinical condition.
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