Validation of a single biopsy approach and bolus protein feeding to determine myofibrillar protein synthesis in stable isotope tracer studies in humans
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BACKGROUND: Minimizing the number of muscle biopsies has important methodological implications and minimizes subject discomfort during a stable isotope amino acid infusion. We aimed to determine the reliability of obtaining a single muscle biopsy for the calculation of muscle protein fractional synthetic rate (FSR) as well as the amount of incorporation time necessary to obtain that biopsy after initiating a stable isotope infusion (Study 1). The calculation of muscle protein FSR requires tracer steady-state during the stable isotope infusion. Therefore, a second aim was to examine if steady-state conditions are compromised in the precursor pools (plasma free or muscle intracellular [IC]) after ingestion of a tracer enriched protein drink and after resistance exercise (Study 2). METHODS: Sixteen men (23 ± 3 years; BMI = 23.8 ± 2.2 kg/m2, means ± SD) were randomized to perform Study 1 or Study 2 (n = 8, per study). Subjects received a primed, constant infusion of L-[ring-13C6]phenylalanine coupled with muscle biopsies of the vastus lateralis to measure rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis (MPS). Subjects in Study 2 were fed 25 g of whey protein immediately after an acute bout of unilateral resistance exercise. RESULTS: There was no difference (P = 0.3) in rates of MPS determined using the steady-state precursor-product equation and determination of tracer incorporation between sequential biopsies 150 min apart or using plasma protein as the baseline enrichment, provided the infusion length was sufficient (230 ± 0.3 min). We also found that adding a modest amount of tracer (4% enriched), calculated based on the measured phenylalanine content of the protein (3.5%) in the drink, did not compromise steady-state conditions (slope of the enrichment curve not different from zero) in the plasma free or, more importantly, the IC pool (both P > 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: These data demonstrate that the single biopsy approach yields comparable rates of muscle protein synthesis, provided a longer incorporation time is utilized, to that seen with a traditional two biopsy approach. In addition, we demonstrate that enriching protein-containing drinks with tracer does not disturb isotopic steady-state and thus both are reliable techniques to determine rates of MPS in humans.
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