The activities of glutamine synthetase, phosphate-dependent glutaminase, phosphate-independent glutaminase, glutamate dehydrogenase, γ-glutamyl transferase and glutamine-oxo-acid aminotransferase were assayed in liver, kidney cortex, brain (cerebral hemispheres), spleen, skeletal muscle and ileum obtained from lambs of 100–260 days conceptual age. A curve was fitted to each set of data relating enzyme activity and conceptual age.
In the ileum, glutaminase and γ-glutamyl transferase activities declined during development. Glutamine synthetase activity in the spleen increased markedly after birth, whereas glutamate dehydrogenase activity declined as rumen function was established. In the liver, glutamate dehydrogenase and glutamine synthetase activities were highest in suckling lambs and there was a gradual increase in hepatic γ-glutamyl transferase activity throughout the period studied. The activity of phosphate-dependent glutaminase was lowest in the kidney cortex of ruminating lambs but renal activities of glutamate dehydrogenase, phosphate-independent glutaminase, glutamine synthetase and γ-glutamyl transferase were highest in ruminating lambs. In skeletal muscle, a gradual increase in glutamine synthetase activity occurred after 180 days conceptual age, whereas there was no detectable glutaminase activity in ruminating lambs. In the brain, there was an increase in glutamate dehydrogenase, phosphatedependent glutaminase and glutamine synthetase activities during the foetal and early suckling periods, whereas γ-glutamyl transferase activity increased throughout the period studied.
Glutamine-oxo-acid aminotransferase activity was not detected in any of the tissues studied. Phosphate-independent glutaminase activity was always less than 10% of phosphate-dependent glutaminase activity and therefore must have a minor role in the metabolism of glutamine in lambs.
A consideration of the relative activities of the enzymes at different stages of development indicated that the ileum, spleen, liver, kidney cortex and brain have a substantial potential for glutamine utilization during foetal life. As a lamb matures after birth, there are changes in the metabolism of glutamate and glutamine which indicate that there is a greater potential for net glutamine synthesis in older lambs. This could be associated with the need for detoxification of ammonia in ruminating lambs.