We have investigated sequential changes in skeletal muscle and hepatic protein synthesis following sepsis, and their relationship to changes in circulating and tissue glutamine concentrations. Male Wistar rats underwent caecal ligation and puncture (CLP) or sham operation, with starvation, and were killed 24, 72 or 96 h later. A group of non-operated animals were killed at the time of surgery. Protein synthesis was determined using a flooding dose of l-[4-3H] phenylalanine, and glutamine concentrations were measured by an enzymic fluorimetric assay. Protein synthesis in gastrocnemius muscle fell in all groups. Gastrocnemius total protein content was reduced after CLP and at 72 and 96 h after sham operation. After CLP, protein synthesis was lower at 24 h, and total protein content was lower at 72 and 96 h, than in sham-operated animals. CLP was associated with increased liver protein synthesis at all time points, whereas there was no change after sham operation. Liver protein content did not change after CLP, but was lower at 72 and 96 h after sham operation than in non-operated animals. Plasma glutamine concentrations were reduced at 24 h after sham operation, and at 72 and 96 h after CLP. Muscle glutamine concentrations were reduced in all groups, with the decrease being greater following CLP than after sham operation. In the liver, glutamine concentrations were unchanged after CLP, but increased after sham operation. In rats with sepsis, decreases in muscle protein synthesis and content are associated with markedly reduced muscle glutamine concentrations. Plasma glutamine concentrations are initially maintained, but fall later. In liver, protein synthesis is increased, while glutamine concentrations are preserved. These results support a peripheral-to-splanchnic glutamine flux in sepsis.

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