What is Taurine?

Taurine, or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, is an organic acid. It is a major constituent of bile and can be found in the lower intestine and, in small amounts, in the tissues of many animals, including humans. Taurine is a derivative of the sulfur-containing (sulfhydryl) amino acid cysteine.

Taurine is one of the few known naturally occurring sulfonic acids.

Taurine is named after the Latin ''Taurus'' (a cognate of the Greek ''ταύρος'') which means bull or ox, as it was first isolated from ox bile in 1827 by German scientists Friedrich Tiedemann and Leopold Gmelin.

Taurine occurs naturally in food, especially in seafood and meat. The mean daily intake from omnivore diets was determined to be around 58 mg (range from 9 to 372 mg) and to be low or negligible from a strict vegan diet. In another study, taurine intake was estimated to be generally less than 200 mg/day, even in individuals eating a high-meat diet. According to another study, taurine consumption was estimated to vary between 40 to 400 mg/day.

In the strict sense, taurine is not an amino acid, as it lacks a carboxyl group, but it is often called one, even in scientific literature. It does contain a sulfonate group and may be called an amino sulfonic acid.

Small polypeptides have been identified which contain taurine, but to date no aminoacyl tRNA synthetase has been identified as specifically recognizing taurine and capable of incorporating it into a tRNA.

Mammalian taurine synthesis occurs in the pancreas via the cysteine sulfinic acid pathway. In this pathway, the sulfhydryl group of cysteine is first oxidized to cysteine sulfinic acid by the enzyme cysteine dioxygenase. Cysteine sulfinic acid, in turn, is decarboxylated by sulfinoalanine decarboxylase to form hypotaurine. It is unclear whether hypotaurine is then spontaneously or enzymatically oxidized to yield taurine.

Further Reading


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Last Updated: Oct 8, 2014

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