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name of the term : Nucleotides

Short introduction

  • Nucleotides are non-protein nitrogenous (containing nitrogen) compounds made of three parts: a nucleobase (containing nitrogen), a sugar group and one to three phosphate groups. They are present in every cell.
  • Nucleotides can be synthesised endogenously (produced within the body). This process is energy-costly; in a situation of additional demand (rapid growth in infants or illness) the normal production may not be enough and thus dietary nucleotide sources may be necessary to supplement nucleotide synthesis.
  • Dietary nucleotides are required for the proliferation (multiplying) of all rapidly dividing cells including cells of the immune system and the lining of the gastrointestinal tract (besides, these cells have a lower synthetic capacity for nucleotides). For this reason nucleotides are conditionally essential.
  • The most important nucleotides found in human milk are:
    • CMP cytidine-monophosphate
    • AMP adenosine-monophosphate
    • UMP uridine-monophosphate
    • IMP inosine-monophosphate
    • GMP guanine-monophosphate
  • Compared to human milk, cow’s milk contains different types of nucleotides at different levels. Cow's milk is rich in orotic acid, a precursor for the nucleobase uracil, while the other nucleotides are either absent or present in exceedingly low quantities.

Main natural sources

  • Nucleotides are naturally present in all foods of animal and vegetable origin – since almost all foods are made up of either intact cells or cellular contents. In most normal foods, the amounts are quite low.
  • Found in: fish (oily fish like mackerel), poultry, liver, meat, yeast extracts, some peas and pulses, mushrooms, broccoli, milk.

Main function

  • Structural units of DNA and RNA that store and transfer genetic information.
  • As energy carriers nucleotides are involved in transferring energy within and between cells
  • Components of particular coenzymes (helper enzymes).
  • Function as regulators of metabolism, e.g. facilitator of hormonal actions.
  • Involved in protein synthesis.
  • Studies focused on infants: nucleotides contribute to overall growth and development, support healthy gut functioning and immune system functioning. Furthermore, they may have a role in the sleep/wake cycle, affecting sleep.

Deficiency disease

  • No particular disease or deficiency syndrome has been related to nucleotide deficiency. This may be because dietary intake and the body’s own production is sufficient for most cells. Since gastrointestinal cells and cells of the immune system have a lower synthetic capacity, further research is required.

Recommended daily intake

DRIs (Dietary Reference Intakes) have not been established for nucleotides.


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