Orotic acid is a heterocyclic compound that is a precursor in the biosynthesis of pyrimidine nucleotides. It was first isolated from whey as a crystalline substance in 1904. Orotic acid is also known by other names, including pyrimidinecarboxylic acid and vitamin B13 (although it’s not officially recognized as a vitamin).
Here are some key points about orotic acid:
- Biological Role: Orotic acid is a key intermediate in the biosynthesis of pyrimidine nucleotides, which are essential components of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). It is involved in the de novo pyrimidine synthesis pathway.
- Vitamin B13: While orotic acid was initially referred to as vitamin B13, it is not considered a true vitamin because the body can synthesize it. The term “vitamin B13” is no longer widely used in the context of essential vitamins.
- Sources: Orotic acid can be found in small amounts in various foods, such as dairy products, beer, and some grains. However, the body can also synthesize it as part of the metabolic processes.
- Supplements: Orotic acid is sometimes used as a dietary supplement, particularly in sports nutrition. It has been marketed for its potential role in improving endurance and athletic performance, although the scientific evidence supporting these claims is limited.
- Medicinal Uses: Orotic acid and its salts (such as potassium orotate and magnesium orotate) have been studied for potential therapeutic applications. Some studies have explored their use in conditions like heart disease and liver disorders. However, more research is needed to establish their efficacy and safety in these contexts.
- Nucleotide Synthesis: Orotic acid is a precursor in the biosynthesis of pyrimidine nucleotides, which are essential components of DNA and RNA. It is involved in the de novo synthesis of pyrimidines, particularly uridine monophosphate (UMP). This process occurs in the pyrimidine biosynthetic pathway.
- Cell Growth and Division: Orotic acid is important for cell growth and division, as it contributes to the production of nucleotides required for the synthesis of genetic material. This is particularly crucial in rapidly dividing cells, such as those in embryonic tissues and actively regenerating tissues.
- Liver Health: Orotic acid has been studied for its potential benefits in liver health. It has been suggested that orotic acid supplementation might have hepatoprotective effects, supporting liver function and regeneration. However, more research is needed in this area.
- Sports and Exercise: Some studies have explored the potential use of orotic acid in sports and exercise. It has been suggested that orotic acid supplementation might enhance physical performance and endurance. The proposed mechanisms include increased oxygen utilization and improved energy metabolism. However, more research is needed to establish its effectiveness and safety in this context.
It’s important to note that while orotic acid has been investigated for various purposes, its use as a supplement should be approached with caution. As with any dietary supplement, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before taking orotic acid or related compounds, especially in therapeutic doses.