Acetaminophen toxicity and 5-oxoproline (pyroglutamic acid): a tale of two cycles, one an ATP-depleting futile cycle and the other a useful cycle

Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology : CJASN
Michael Emmett


The acquired form of 5-oxoproline (pyroglutamic acid) metabolic acidosis was first described in 1989 and its relationship to chronic acetaminophen ingestion was proposed the next year. Since then, this cause of chronic anion gap metabolic acidosis has been increasingly recognized. Many cases go unrecognized because an assay for 5-oxoproline is not widely available. Most cases occur in malnourished, chronically ill women with a history of chronic acetaminophen ingestion. Acetaminophen levels are very rarely in the toxic range; rather, they are usually therapeutic or low. The disorder generally resolves with cessation of acetaminophen and administration of intravenous fluids. Methionine or N-acetyl cysteine may accelerate resolution and methionine is protective in a rodent model. The disorder has been attributed to glutathione depletion and activation of a key enzyme in the γ-glutamyl cycle. However, the specific metabolic derangements that cause the 5-oxoproline accumulation remain unclear. An ATP-depleting futile 5-oxoproline cycle can explain the accumulation of 5-oxoproline after chronic acetaminophen ingestion. This cycle is activated by the depletion of both glutathione and cysteine. This explanation contributes to our unde...Continue Reading


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