Alterations of protein turnover underlying disuse atrophy in human skeletal muscle
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Unloading-induced atrophy is a relatively uncomplicated form of muscle loss, dependent almost solely on the loss of mechanical input, whereas in disease states associated with inflammation (cancer cachexia, AIDS, burns, sepsis, and uremia), there is a procatabolic hormonal and cytokine environment. It is therefore predictable that muscle loss mainly due to disuse alone would be governed by mechanisms somewhat differently from those in inflammatory states. We suggest that in vivo measurements made in human subjects using arterial-venous balance, tracer dilution, and tracer incorporation are dynamic and thus robust by comparison with static measurements of mRNA abundance and protein expression and/or phosphorylation in human muscle. In addition, measurements made with cultured cells or in animal models, all of which have often been used to infer alterations of protein turnover, appear to be different from results obtained in immobilized human muscle in vivo. In vivo measurements of human muscle protein turnover in disuse show that the primary variable that changes facilitating the loss of muscle mass is protein synthesis, which is reduced in both the postabsorptive and postprandial states; muscle proteolysis itself appears not to be elevated. The depressed postprandial protein synthetic response (a phenomenon we term "anabolic resistance") may even be accompanied by a diminished suppression of proteolysis. We therefore propose that most of the loss of muscle mass during disuse atrophy can be accounted for by a depression in the rate of protein synthesis. Thus the normal diurnal fasted-to-fed cycle of protein balance is disrupted and, by default, proteolysis becomes dominant but is not enhanced.
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