Uric acid is a heterocyclic compound of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen with the formula C5H4N4O3. It forms ions and salts known as urates and acid urates, such as ammonium acid urate. Uric acid is a product of the metabolic breakdown of purine nucleotides, and it is a normal component of urine. High blood concentrations of uric acid can lead to gout and are associated with other medical conditions, including diabetes and the formation of ammonium acid urate kidney stones.
Primates. In humans and higher primates, uric acid (actually hydrogen urate ion) is the final oxidation (breakdown) product of purine metabolism and is excreted in urine, whereas in most other mammals, the enzyme uricase further oxidizes uric acid to allantoin. The loss of uricase in higher primates parallels the similar loss of the ability to synthesize ascorbic acid, leading to the suggestion that urate may partially substitute for ascorbate in such species.
Humans. The normal concentration range of uric acid (or hydrogen urate ion) in human blood is 25 to 80 mg/L for men and 15 to 60 mg/L for women (but see below for slightly different values). An individual can have serum values as high as 96 mg/L and not have gout. In humans, about 70% of daily uric acid disposal occurs via the kidneys, and in 5–25% of humans, impaired renal (kidney) excretion leads to hyperuricemia.
Birds and reptiles. In birds and reptiles, and in some desert dwelling mammals (such as the kangaroo rat), uric acid also is the end-product of purine metabolism, but it is excreted in feces as a dry mass. This involves a complex metabolic pathway that is energetically costly in comparison to processing of other nitrogenous wastes such as urea (from the urea cycle) or ammonia, but has the advantages of reducing water loss and preventing dehydration.