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Disuse leads to rapid loss of skeletal muscle mass and function. It has been hypothesized that short successive periods of muscle disuse throughout the lifespan play an important role in the development of sarcopenia. The physiological mechanisms underlying short-term muscle disuse atrophy remain to be elucidated. We assessed the impact of 5 days of muscle disuse on postabsorptive and postprandial myofibrillar protein synthesis rates in humans. Twelve healthy young (22 ± 1 yr) men underwent a 5-day period of one-legged knee immobilization (full leg cast). Quadriceps cross-sectional area (CSA) of both legs was assessed before and after immobilization. Continuous infusions of l-[ring-2H5]phenylalanine and l-[1-13C]leucine were combined with the ingestion of a 25-g bolus of intrinsically l-[1-13C]phenylalanine- and l-[1-13C]leucine-labeled dietary protein to assess myofibrillar muscle protein fractional synthetic rates in the immobilized and nonimmobilized control leg. Immobilization led to a 3.9 ± 0.6% decrease in quadriceps muscle CSA of the immobilized leg. Based on the l-[ring-2H5]phenylalanine tracer, immobilization reduced postabsorptive myofibrillar protein synthesis rates by 41 ± 13% (0.015 ± 0.002 vs. 0.032 ± 0.005%/h, P < 0.01) and postprandial myofibrillar protein synthesis rates by 53 ± 4% (0.020 ± 0.002 vs. 0.044 ± 0.003%/h, P < 0.01). Comparable results were found using the l-[1-13C]leucine tracer. Following protein ingestion, myofibrillar protein bound l-[1-13C]phenylalanine enrichments were 53 ± 18% lower in the immobilized compared with the control leg (0.007 ± 0.002 and 0.015 ± 0.002 mole% excess, respectively, P < 0.05). We conclude that 5 days of muscle disuse substantially lowers postabsorptive myofibrillar protein synthesis rates and induces anabolic resistance to protein ingestion.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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