• Vol. 35 No. 7, 468–475
  • 15 July 2006

Plasma and Urine Amino Acid Profiles in a Healthy Adult Population of Singapore



Introduction: The analysis of amino acids in plasma and urine was introduced in Singapore when a laboratory for the investigation of inherited metabolic disorders was established by the Ministry of Health. Reference ranges are required for interpreting test results and making diagnoses. Initially, reference ranges established for Caucasians were used as there were no local data and we were unable to find data obtained by the same analytical method for Asian populations. This was not considered an ideal and long-term solution, as Singaporeans may have amino acid concentrations quite different from those of Caucasians due to genetic factors, dietary difference, environment, and other influences. This study was therefore undertaken when a number of healthy laboratory personnel volunteered to provide specimens for the study.

Materials and Methods: Sixty healthy male and female laboratory workers not on any form of medication were recruited. They consisted of 24 males (range, 23 to 58 years) and 36 females (range, 20 to 60 years), with a mean age of 38.7 years. Non-fasting random blood and urine specimens were collected on ice. Removal of protein and peptides from heparinised plasma and urine was achieved by ultrafiltration through protein-exclusion membrane. Amino acid analysis on the ultrafiltrate was performed by a dedicated Beckman 6300 Amino Acid Analyzer using a cation exchange resin column and post-column colour reaction with ninhydrin reagent. Urine creatinine was measured by a Beckman LX 20 PRO Analyzer. Results for urine amino acids were expressed as µmol/mmol of creatinine.

Results: Reference ranges for 32 amino acids in blood plasma and 36 amino acids in urine were calculated by a non-parametric method using the SPSS statistical calculation software. The ranges cover 95% of the population and the low and high limits of each reference range represent the 2.5th percentile and 97.5th percentile of the frequency distribution respectively.

Conclusions: We observed differences in the reference ranges of several plasma and urine amino acids between Singaporean and Caucasian populations. Moreover, the list of urine amino acids for Caucasian population is incomplete. We have therefore discontinued the use of reference values established for Caucasians and adopted the results of this study for our patient diagnostic work.

Analysis of blood plasma and urinary amino acids is required for the diagnosis and management of inherited metabolic disorders (IMDs) affecting one or more amino acids, such as phenylketonuria, tyrosinaemia, citrullinaemia, cystine-lysinuria, hyperglycinaemia, and maple syrup urine disease. It may also be useful for monitoring patients requiring long-term nutritional support, formulating enteral feeds, and studying other diseases that affect amino acid metabolism.

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