The organic compound citrulline is an α-amino acid. Its name is derived from citrullus, the Latin word for watermelo], from which it was first isolated in 1930. It has the idealized formula H2NC(O)NH(CH2)3CH(NH2)CO2H. It is a key intermediate in the urea cycle, the pathway by which mammals excrete ammonia. Citrulline is a substituted urea.
Citrulline is made from ornithine and carbamoyl phosphate in one of the central reactions in the urea cycle. It is also produced from arginine as a by-product of the reaction catalyzed by NOS family (NOS; EC 126.96.36.199). Arginine is first oxidized into N-hydroxyl-arginine, which is then further oxidized to citrulline concomitant with release of nitric oxide. When starved for arginine, organisms will convert ornithine to citrulline, which in turn gives arginine.
Although citrulline is not coded for by DNA directly, several proteins are known to contain citrulline as a result of a posttranslational modification. These citrulline residues are generated by a family of enzymes called peptidylarginine deiminases (PADs), which convert arginine into citrulline in a process called citrullination or deimination. Proteins that normally contain citrulline residues include myelin basic protein (MBP), filaggrin, and several histone proteins, whereas other proteins, such as fibrin and vimentin are susceptible to citrullination during cell death and tissue inflammation.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis often (at least 80% of them) develop an immune response against proteins containing citrulline. Although the origin of this immune response is not known, detection of antibodies reactive with citrulline containing proteins or peptides is now becoming an important help in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Wada, M. (1930). "Über Citrullin, eine neue Aminosäure im Presssaft der Wassermelone, Citrullus vulgaris Schrad". Biochem. Zeit. 224: 420.
- Nelson, D. L.; Cox, M. M. "Lehninger, Principles of Biochemistry" 3rd Ed. Worth Publishing: New York, 2000. ISBN 1-57259-153-6.