Glutamine synthetase (EC 6.3.1.2) was localized within the matrix compartment of avian liver mitochondria. The submitochondrial localization of this enzyme was determined by the digitonin-Lubrol method of Schnaitman and Greenawalt (35). The matrix fraction contained over 74% of the glutamine synthetase activity and the major proportion of the matirx marker enzymes, malate dehydrogenase (71%), NADP-dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase (83%), and glutamate dehydrogenase (57%). The highest specific activities of these enzymes were also found in the matrix compartment. Oxidation of glutamine by avian liver mitochondria was substantially less than that of glutamate. Bromofuroate, an inhibitor of glutamate dehydrogenase, blocked oxidation of glutamate and of glutamine whereas aminoxyacetate, a transaminase inhibitor, had little or no effect with either substrate. These results indicate that glutamine metabolism is probably initiated by the conversion of glutamine to glutamate rather than to an alpha-keto acid. The localization of a glutaminase activity within avian liver mitochondria plus the absence of an active mitochondrial glutamine transaminase is consistent with the differential effects of the transaminase and glutamate dehydrogenase inhibitors. The high glutamine synthetase activity (40:1) suggests that mitochondrial catabolism of glutamine is minimal, freeing most of the glutamine synthesized for purine (uric acid) biosynthesis.

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