Last updated
Ornithine ball-and-stick.png
IUPAC name
Other names
(+)-(S)-2,5-Diaminovaleric acid
(+)-(S)-2,5-Diaminopentanoic acid
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.000.665 OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
EC Number
  • 200-731-7
MeSH Ornithine
PubChem CID
Properties [1]
Molar mass 132.16 g/mol
Melting point 140 °C (284 °F; 413 K)
Solubility soluble in ethanol
Acidity (pKa)1.94
+11.5 (H2O, c = 6.5)
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Ornithine is a non-proteinogenic amino acid that plays a role in the urea cycle. Ornithine is abnormally accumulated in the body in ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency. The radical is ornithyl.


Role in urea cycle

L-Ornithine is one of the products of the action of the enzyme arginase on L-arginine, creating urea. Therefore, ornithine is a central part of the urea cycle, which allows for the disposal of excess nitrogen. Ornithine is recycled and, in a manner, is a catalyst. First, ammonia is converted into carbamoyl phosphate (H
). Ornithine is converted into a urea derivative at the δ (terminal) nitrogen by carbamoyl phosphate synthetase. Another nitrogen is added from aspartate, producing the denitrogenated fumarate, and the resulting arginine (a guanidinium compound) is hydrolysed back to ornithine, producing urea. The nitrogens of urea come from the ammonia and aspartate, and the nitrogen in ornithine remains intact.

Ornithine is not an amino acid coded for by DNA, that is, not proteinogenic. However, in mammalian non-hepatic tissues, the main use of the urea cycle is in arginine biosynthesis, so, as an intermediate in metabolic processes, ornithine is quite important. [2]

Other reactions

Ornithine, via the action of ornithine decarboxylase (E.C., is the starting point for the synthesis of polyamines such as putrescine.

In bacteria, such as E. coli , ornithine can be synthesized from L-glutamate. [3]

Ornithine lactamization Ornithine lactamization.svg
Ornithine lactamization


Exercise fatigue

L-Ornithine supplementation attenuated fatigue in subjects in a placebo-controlled study using a cycle ergometer. The results suggested that L-ornithine has an antifatigue effect in increasing the efficiency of energy consumption and promoting the excretion of ammonia. [4] [5]

Weightlifting supplement

Amino acid supplements, including L-ornithine, are frequently marketed to bodybuilders and weightlifters with claims for increasing levels of human growth hormone (HGH), muscle mass, and strength. A clinical study reported that L-ornithine at 2 g/d did not increase HGH. [6] A review on the topic concluded "The use of specific amino acids to stimulate GH release by athletes is not recommended." [7]


L-Ornithine L-aspartate (LOLA), a stable salt of ornithine and aspartic acid, has been used in the treatment of cirrhosis. [8]

Related Research Articles

Amino acid Organic compounds containing amine and carboxylic groups

Amino acids are organic compounds that contain amine (–NH2) and carboxyl (–COOH) functional groups, along with a side chain (R group) specific to each amino acid. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), and nitrogen (N), although other elements are found in the side chains of certain amino acids. About 500 naturally occurring amino acids are known (though only 20 appear in the genetic code) and can be classified in many ways. They can be classified according to the core structural functional groups' locations as alpha- (α-), beta- (β-), gamma- (γ-) or delta- (δ-) amino acids; other categories relate to polarity, pH level, and side chain group type (aliphatic, acyclic, aromatic, containing hydroxyl or sulfur, etc.). In the form of proteins, amino acid residues form the second-largest component (water is the largest) of human muscles and other tissues. Beyond their role as residues in proteins, amino acids participate in a number of processes such as neurotransmitter transport and biosynthesis.

<i>alpha</i>-Ketoglutaric acid

α-Ketoglutaric acid is one of two ketone derivatives of glutaric acid. The term "ketoglutaric acid," when not further qualified, almost always refers to the alpha variant. β-Ketoglutaric acid varies only by the position of the ketone functional group, and is much less common.

The urea cycle (also known as the ornithine cycle) is a cycle of biochemical reactions that produces urea (NH2)2CO from ammonia (NH3). This cycle occurs in ureotelic organisms. The urea cycle converts highly toxic ammonia to urea for excretion. This cycle was the first metabolic cycle to be discovered (Hans Krebs and Kurt Henseleit, 1932), five years before the discovery of the TCA cycle. This cycle was described in more detail later on by Ratner and Cohen. The urea cycle takes place primarily in the liver and, to a lesser extent, in the kidneys.

Arginine Amino acid

Arginine, also known as l-arginine (symbol Arg or R), is an α-amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. It contains an α-amino group, an α-carboxylic acid group, and a side chain consisting of a 3-carbon aliphatic straight chain ending in a guanidino group. At physiological pH, the carboxylic acid is deprotonated (−COO), the amino group is protonated (−NH3+), and the guanidino group is also protonated to give the guanidinium form (-C-(NH2)2+), making arginine a charged, aliphatic amino acid. It is the precursor for the biosynthesis of nitric oxide. It is encoded by the codons CGU, CGC, CGA, CGG, AGA, and AGG.

Ornithine transcarbamylase

Ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) is an enzyme that catalyzes the reaction between carbamoyl phosphate (CP) and ornithine (Orn) to form citrulline (Cit) and phosphate (Pi). There are two classes of OTC anabolic and catabolic. This article focuses on anabolic OTC. Anabolic OTC facilitates the sixth step in the biosynthesis of the amino acid arginine in prokaryotes. In contrast, mammalian OTC plays an essential role in the urea cycle whose purpose is to capture toxic ammonia and transform it into less toxic urea nitrogen source for excretion.

Carbamoyl phosphate

Carbamoyl phosphate is an anion of biochemical significance. In land-dwelling animals, it is an intermediary metabolite in nitrogen disposal through the urea cycle and the synthesis of pyrimidines. Its enzymatic counterpart, carbamoyl phosphate synthetase I, interacts with a class of molecules called sirtuins, NAD dependent protein deacetylases, and ATP to form carbamoyl phosphate. CP then enters the urea cycle in which it reacts with ornithine to form citrulline.


Hyperammonemia is a metabolic disturbance characterised by an excess of ammonia in the blood. It is a dangerous condition that may lead to brain injury and death. It may be primary or secondary.

Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency Urea cycle disorder

Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency is the most common urea cycle disorder in humans. It is an inherited disorder which causes toxic levels of ammonia to build up in the blood.

Biosynthesis is a multi-step, enzyme-catalyzed process where substrates are converted into more complex products in living organisms. In biosynthesis, simple compounds are modified, converted into other compounds, or joined together to form macromolecules. This process often consists of metabolic pathways. Some of these biosynthetic pathways are located within a single cellular organelle, while others involve enzymes that are located within multiple cellular organelles. Examples of these biosynthetic pathways include the production of lipid membrane components and nucleotides. Biosynthesis is usually synonymous with anabolism.

Mitochondrial matrix

In the mitochondrion, the matrix is the space within the inner membrane. The word "matrix" stems from the fact that this space is viscous, compared to the relatively aqueous cytoplasm. The mitochondrial matrix contains the mitochondria's DNA, ribosomes, soluble enzymes, small organic molecules, nucleotide cofactors, and inorganic ions.[1] The enzymes in the matrix facilitate reactions responsible for the production of ATP, such as the citric acid cycle, oxidative phosphorylation, oxidation of pyruvate, and the beta oxidation of fatty acids.

Orotic acid

Orotic acid is a pyrimidinedione and a carboxylic acid. Historically it was believed to be part of the vitamin B complex and was called vitamin B13, but it is now known that it is not a vitamin.

<i>N</i>-Acetylglutamic acid

N-Acetylglutamic acid (also referred to as N-acetylglutamate, abbreviated NAG, chemical formula C7H11NO5) is biosynthesized from glutamate and acetylornithine by ornithine acetyltransferase, and from glutamic acid and acetyl-CoA by the enzyme N-acetylglutamate synthase. The reverse reaction, hydrolysis of the acetyl group, is catalyzed by a specific hydrolase. It is the first intermediate involved in the biosynthesis of arginine in prokaryotes and simple eukaryotes and a regulator in the process known as the urea cycle that converts toxic ammonia to urea for excretion from the body in vertebrates.

Argininosuccinate synthase

Argininosuccinate synthase or synthetase is an enzyme that catalyzes the synthesis of argininosuccinate from citrulline and aspartate. In humans, argininosuccinate synthase is encoded by the ASS gene located on chromosome 9.

Sodium phenylbutyrate Chemical compound

Sodium phenylbutyrate is a salt of an aromatic fatty acid, 4-phenylbutyrate (4-PBA) or 4-phenylbutyric acid. The compound is used to treat urea cycle disorders, because its metabolites offer an alternative pathway to the urea cycle to allow excretion of excess nitrogen. It is an orphan drug, marketed by Ucyclyd Pharma under the trade name Buphenyl, by Swedish Orphan International (Sweden) as Ammonaps, and by Fyrlklövern Scandinavia as triButyrate.

<i>N</i>-Acetylglutamate synthase

N-Acetylglutamate synthase (NAGS) is an enzyme that catalyses the production of N-acetylglutamate (NAG) from glutamate and acetyl-CoA.

Carbamoyl phosphate synthetase I is a ligase enzyme located in the mitochondria involved in the production of urea. Carbamoyl phosphate synthetase I transfers an ammonia molecule from glutamine or glutamate to a molecule of bicarbonate that has been phosphorylated by a molecule of ATP. The resulting carbamate is then phosphorylated with another molecule of ATP. The resulting molecule of carbamoyl phosphate leaves the enzyme.

N-Acetylglutamate synthase deficiency

N-Acetylglutamate synthase deficiency is an autosomal recessive urea cycle disorder.

Carbamoyl phosphate synthetase

Carbamoyl phosphate synthetase catalyzes the ATP-dependent synthesis of carbamoyl phosphate from glutamine or ammonia and bicarbonate. This enzyme catalyzes the reaction of ATP and bicarbonate to produce carboxy phosphate and ADP. Carboxy phosphate reacts with ammonia to give carbamic acid. In turn, carbamic acid reacts with a second ATP to give carbamoyl phosphate plus ADP.

ATCase/OTCase family

In molecular biology, the ATCase/OTCase family is a protein family which contains two related enzymes: aspartate carbamoyltransferase EC and ornithine carbamoyltransferase EC It has been shown that these enzymes are evolutionary related. The predicted secondary structure of both enzymes is similar and there are some regions of sequence similarities. One of these regions includes three residues which have been shown, by crystallographic studies to be implicated in binding the phosphoryl group of carbamoyl phosphate and may also play a role in trimerisation of the molecules. The N-terminal domain is the carbamoyl phosphate binding domain. The C-terminal domain is an aspartate/ornithine-binding domain.

Arginine and proline metabolism is one of the central pathways for the biosynthesis of the amino acids arginine and proline from glutamate. The pathways linking arginine, glutamate, and proline are bidirectional. Thus, the net utilization or production of these amino acids is highly dependent on cell type and developmental stage. Altered proline metabolism has been linked to metastasis formation in breast cancer.


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