Small changes in essential amino acid concentrations alter diet selection in amino acid-deficient rats

Brian J. Hrupka, Yu Mei Lin, Dorothy W. Gietzen, Quinton Rogers

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29 Scopus citations


The rat's sensitivity to changes in the dietary limiting amino acid concentration (LAA) was examined on the basis of dietary selection. Rats were adapted to purified low protein basal (Basal) diets in which threonine (Thr) was the LAA (0.188-0.212% wt/wt of diet). In Experiment 1, rats made a clear selection for their adaptation diet over a diet containing 0.012% less threonine after 2-3 d of choice. Rats made no clear dietary selection when given a choice between their adaptation diet and a diet containing 0.012% more threonine. Experiment 2 was conducted to examine the rat's sensitivity to small decreases in the LAA concentration. Rats adapted to a 0.200% Thr- Basal diet clearly responded to decreases as small as 0.009% in the concentration of threonine and selected against the more deficient diet when given a choice between it and the 0.200% Thr-Basal adaptation diet. Because plasma and brain amino acid concentrations are important for detection of other amino acid deficiencies, these variables were measured to determine whether they were affected by such small changes in dietary amino acid concentration. In Experiments 3 and 4, rats were adapted to the 0.200% Thr- Basal diet and then fed 0.188, 0.200 or 0.212% Thr-Basal diets for 6 h, or 0.188 and 0.212% Thr-Basal for 54 h. Amino acid concentrations in plasma, prepiriform cortex and anterior cingulate cortex were not significantly different among treatments. Norepinephrine concentration in the prepiriform cortex was not affected by dietary treatment. We conclude that small decreases in LAA concentration can cause selection against the more deficient diet, but that detection of such deficiencies does not require significant changes in plasma and brain amino acid concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)777-784
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 22 1997


  • amino acid deficiency
  • diet selection
  • food intake
  • rats
  • threonine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science


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