Heterocyclic compound of the purine type, the end product of metabolism of the purines in nucleic acids in many animals, including humans. It is excreted by reptiles and birds as the chief nitrogenous end product of protein breakdown. Small quantities are normally found in human blood; in gout, levels are abnormally high. Uric acid is used industrially in organic synthesis.
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Uric acid is also the end product of nitrogen catabolism in birds and reptiles. In such species, it is excreted in feces as a dry mass. While this compound is produced through a complex and energetically costly metabolic pathway (in comparison to other nitrogenated wastes such as urea or ammonia), its elimination minimizes water loss. It is therefore commonly found in the excretions of animals—such as the kangaroo rat—that live in very dry environments. The Dalmatian dog has a defect in uric acid uptake by liver, resulting in decreased conversion to allantoin, so this breed excretes uric acid, and not allantoin, in the urine.
Elevated serum uric acid (hyperuricemia) can result from high intake of purine-rich foods, high fructose intake (regardless of fructose's low Glycemic Index (GI) value) and/or impaired excretion by the kidneys. Saturation levels of uric acid in blood may result in one form of kidney stones when the urate crystallizes in the kidney. These uric acid stones are radiolucent and so do not appear on an abdominal x-ray. Their presence must be diagnosed by ultrasound for this reason. Some patients with gout eventually get uric kidney stones.
Gout can occur where serum uric acid levels are as low as 6 mg/dL (~357µmol/L), but an individual can have serum values as high as 9.5 mg/dL (~565µmol/L) and not have gout (no abstract available; levels reported at ).
Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, an extremely rare inherited disorder, is also associated with very high serum uric acid levels.
Spasticity, involuntary movement and cognitive retardation as well as manifestations of gout are seen in cases of this syndrome.
Although uric acid can act as an antioxidant, excess serum accumulation is often associated with cardiovascular disease. It is not known whether this is causative (e.g., by acting as a prooxidant ) or a protective reaction taking advantage of urate's antioxidant properties.
The association of high serum uric acid with insulin resistance has been known since the early part of the 20th century, nevertheless, recognition of high serum uric acid as a risk factor for diabetes has been a matter of debate. In fact, hyperuricemia has always been presumed to be a consequence of insulin resistance rather than its precursor . However, it was shown in a prospective follow-up study that high serum uric acid is associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes independent of obesity, dyslipidemia, and hypertension .
Hyperuricemia is associated with components of metabolic syndrome and it has been debated for a while to be a component of it. It has been shown in a recent study that fructose-induced hyperuricemia may play a pathogenic role in the metabolic syndrome. This agrees with the increased consumption of fructose-base drinks in recent decades and the epidemic of diabetes and obesity .
Uric Acid Stone Formation
Uric acid stones, which form in the absence of secondary causes such as chronic diarrhea, vigorous exercise, dehydration, and animal protein loading, are felt to be secondary to obesity and insulin resistance seen in metabolic syndrome. Increased dietary acid leads to increased endogenous acid production in the liver and muscles which in turn leads to an increased acid load to the kidneys. This load is handled more poorly because of renal fat infiltration and insulin resistance which are felt to impair ammonia excretion (a buffer). The urine is therefore quite acidic and uric acid becomes insoluble, crystallizes and stones form. In addition, naturally present promoter and inhibitor factors may be affected. This explains the the high prevalence of uric stones and unusually acid urine seen in patients with Type II diabetes. Uric acid crystals can also promote the formation of calcium oxalate stones, acting as "seed crystals" (heterogenous nucleation).
Lower serum values of uric acid have been associated with Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients have been found to have serum levels ~194µmol/L, with patients in relapse averaging ~160µmol/L and patients in remission averaging ~230µmol/L. Serum uric acid in healthy controls was ~290µmol/L. Conversion factor: 1mg/dL=59.48 µmol/L
A 1998 study completed a statistical analysis of 20 million patient records, comparing serum uric acid values in patients with gout and patients with multiple sclerosis. Almost no overlap between the groups was found.
Uric acid has been successfully used in the treatment and prevention of the animal (murine) model of MS. A 2006 study found that elevation of serum uric acid values in multiple sclerosis patients, by oral supplementation with inosine, resulted in lower relapse rates, and no adverse effects.
Uric acid may be a marker of oxidative stress, and may have a potential therapeutic role as an antioxidant (PMID 16375736). On the other hand, like other strong reducing substances such as ascorbate, uric acid can also act as a prooxidant, particularly at elevated levels. Thus, it is unclear whether elevated levels of uric acid in diseases associated with oxidative stress such as stroke and atherosclerosis are a protective response or a primary cause.
For example, some researchers propose that hyperuricemia-induced oxidative stress is a cause of Metabolic syndrome. On the other hand, plasma uric acid levels correlate with longevity in primates and other mammals. This is presumably a function of urate's antioxidant properties.
In many instances, people have elevated uric acid levels for hereditary reasons.
Diet may also be a factor.
Purines are found in high amounts in animal food products, especially internal organs.
Examples of high purine sources include: sweetbreads, anchovies, sardines, liver, beef kidneys, brains, meat extracts (e.g Oxo, Bovril), herring, mackerel, scallops, game meats, and gravy.
A moderate amount of purine is also contained in beef, pork, poultry, fish and seafood, asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms, green peas, lentils, dried peas, beans, oatmeal, wheat bran and wheat germ.
Moderate intake of purine-containing food is not associated with an increased risk of gout.
Serum uric acid can be elevated due to high fructose intake , reduced excretion by the kidneys, and or high intake of dietary purine.
Aside from avoidance of purine foods, both accumulated copper and low vitamin B2 can exacerbate low uric acid levels, which in turn is hypothesized to lead to myelin degeneration seen in multiple sclerosis.
The crystalline form of uric acid is used as a reflector in certain species of fireflies.
The uric acid in urine can also dry in a baby's diaper to form a pinkish powder that is harmless.
Uric Acid and Soluble Protein Content of Feces from Three Species of Subterranean Termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)
Mar 01, 2012; Like all animals, termites must dispose of excess nitrogen from protein and purine digestion and metabolism. Nitrogenous wastes...
Plasma Uric Acid Is Associated with Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Independent of Diet and Metabolic Risk Factors1-3
Jan 01, 2013; AbstractCurrent evidence suggests a direct association of uric acid with diabetes risk, but it is still unclear whether this is...