1. The catabolism of [14C]phenylalanine was used to indicate the effects of varying the dietary level of lysine and threonine on the retention of dietary amino acids by 2-week-old pigs receiving diets containing skim milk and a mixture of free amino acids.
2. Reducing the dietary level of lysine from 16 to 12 g/kg had no influence on phenylalanine oxidation, reducing the lysine level from 12 to 11 then to 10 g/kg caused an almost linear increase in phenylalanine oxidation whereas further reduction to 9 or 8 g/kg resulted in a less-marked increase in phenylalanine oxidation. This showed that 12 g lysine/kg was required to maximize amino acid retention and indicated that lysine was conserved more effectively at low dietary concentrations than at dietary concentrations approaching the requirement.
3. Reducing the dietary level of threonine from 8 to 6 g/kg had no influence on phenylalanine oxidation, whereas further reduction to 4 g/kg caused a linear increase in phenylalanine catabolism showing that 6 g threonine/kg was required to maximize amino acid retention.
4. Reduction of the levels of lysine, threonine and methionine from the generous levels characteristic of a diet containing 240 g protein from skim milk/kg, to the requirement levels determined separately in the presence of the generous levels of all the other amino acids, resulted in a twofold increase in phenylalanine catabolism. This shows that the pig seems able to conserve limiting intakes of a single amino acid, but not if the intakes of two or three amino acids are limiting.