Protein turnover in skeletal muscle is very sensitive to protein intake. To examine whether protein intake is able to affect protein synthesis in the atrophied soleus muscle, the effects of a high-protein (30%, HP) and a medium-protein (15%, MP) diet were studied in rats after 21 days of hindlimb unweighting. Three weeks of unweighting induced a sharp decrease in food intake (30%). The fractional rate of protein synthesis (ks) was determined in vivo in the slow-twitch soleus muscle by use of a flooding-dose method. With respect to pair-fed animals, a significant reduction in ks occurred (33%) in MP non-weight-bearing rats, whereas it was of lesser magnitude and not significant in HP rats. In the atrophied soleus muscle of non-weight-bearing MP rats, a large decrease (42%) in type I fiber distribution was accompanied by an increase in intermediate and type IIa fibers. By contrast, a higher percentage of type I fiber was maintained with the HP diet. However, the HP diet had no beneficial effect in preventing the decrease in either type I fiber cross-sectional area (65%) or the average decrease in absolute myofibrillar and mitochondrial volumes (69 and 52%, respectively). These results demonstrate that an HP intake did not prevent soleus muscle atrophy but may sustain protein synthesis and partly preserve fiber type distribution without affecting the ultrastructural composition of fibers. Because the circulating level of free 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine was reduced by 14% with the HP diet, this effect on fiber type distribution, and possibly protein synthesis, may involve thyroid hormones.
- Copyright © 1993 the American Physiological Society