Free amino acid (AA) levels in plasma, muscle and liver were measured in growing chickens given either high or low protein diets varying in quality. In experiment 1, they were force-fed once a day (09.00 h), for 4 days, at about 1·5 × M level, a nitrogen-free (NF) diet and then, on day 5, they were given either diet NF or isoenergetic (13·1 kj metabolizable energy (ME) per g dry matter (DM)) and isonitrogenous high protein diets (200 g crude protein (CP) per kg) based on casein (C), lupin (L), soya bean (SB), faba bean (FB), field pea (FP), vetch (V) or bitter vetch (B) as the sole source of protein. In experiment 2, chickens were force-fed twice a day (09.00 h and 18.00 h), for 3 days, at about 1·9 × M level, with four isoenergetic (13·1 k) ME per kg DM) and isonitrogenous low protein diets (120 g CP per kg) based on SB, FP, V or B as the sole source of protein. On days 5 (experiment 1) and 4 (experiment 2) samples of plasma, muscle and liver were taken for AA analysis over 3 to 4h after morning meal.
In general, within experiments, no significant differences in AA concentrations in plasma, muscle or liver among diets were found. However, there was a qualitative but not a quantitative agreement between the AA abundance in tissues and the AA rank of dietary protein. Moreover, when pooling data from experiments 1 and 2, significant regressions were found between the levels of threonine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine and proline in plasma, of lysine, alanine, glutamic acid, glycine and proline in muscle or that of proline in liver and the corresponding amounts ingested with the different diets. Under the conditions of these experiments, however, it was not possible to establish conclusively a direct relationship between the level of free amino acids in tissues and dietary protein quality.