L-methionine is a sulphur-containing nutritionally essential amino acid. It has a number of important roles in epidermal and dermal tissues of the integument of animals. Failure of normal function of these tissues in the hoof (claw) is a cause of lameness in cattle. Little is known about quantitative relationships between post-absorptive concentrations of nutrients including sulphur-containing amino acids and uptake and utilization by epidermis and dermis of the bovine claw. These parameters were studied at the tissue level by use of an established in vitro claw explant system using tissue from cattle of beef or dairy origin and L-[35S]-labelled methionine as tracer. The results showed that uptake of L-methionine by freshly prepared solear explants in Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium/F-12 Nutrient Mix (DMEM/F12) (1:1) medium containing 1·0 mmol L-methionine/litre was concentrative after 5–8 min, essentially linear for up to 10 min and became curvilinear thereafter. Maximum uptake and steady state conditions were obtained at approximately 30 min. Further measurements were made following 21 h incubation in culture medium. Under conditions of varying concentrations of L-methionine and measurement of uptake after 30 min, the presence of a saturable curve, that obeyed Michaelis–Menten kinetics, was demonstrated. Values of 3·61 mmol/litre and 5·84 mmol/kg intracellular water/30 min were obtained for KM and Vmax, respectively. Uptake was not influenced by L-cysteine and L-cystine concentrations in the culture media.
Similar culture and incubation conditions were used in subsequent studies of DNA and protein synthesis. These showed that rates of incorporation of L-methionine into protein fractions and stimulation of DNA synthesis measured by methyl-thymidine incorporation were dependent on L-methionine concentrations in the medium. Maximal rates occurred at approximately 50 μmol/litre, which is in the normal physiological range, and at 1% of maximum uptake capacity. Examination of histological sections by autoradiography showed localization of L-[35S]-labelled methionine in basal and suprabasal epidermal cells with limited retention in dermis. Measurement, by a range of histological, immunohistochemical, electrophoretic, western blotting and autoradiographic techniques, provided further evidence of L-methionine-dependent regulation of proliferation, differentiation and synthesis of proteins under physiological concentrations, by epidermal horn-forming cells.
A key role for L-methionine is suggested in the production of horn in bovine claw. The extrapolation of these in vitro data provides guidance for strategies to optimize methionine supply to claw tissues in vivo. Such extrapolation suggests the appropriateness of delivery of systemic concentrations of 50 μmol L-methionine/litre to maximize proliferative and protein depositional activity in solear epidermis and dermis in vivo.