1. Chronic metabolic acidosis is associated with impaired growth and negative nitrogen balance, suggesting that it promotes endogenous protein catabolism.
2. Skeletal muscle is the major repository of body protein and is a potential target for stimuli of protein catabolism.
3. This study in vivo examines the effects of chronic metabolic acidosis on the relationship between growth, nitrogen disposal and skeletal muscle catabolism in the rat.
4. Growth, nitrogen utilization and acquisition of body mass were significantly impaired in acidotic animals compared with pair-fed controls.
5. Total nitrogen excretion was significantly increased in acidotic rats despite decreased urea production. The time course of this response to acidosis was synchronous with that of accelerated protein catabolism in skeletal muscle.
6. It is proposed that metabolic acidosis impairs growth by stimulating skeletal muscle protein catabolism. It is suggested that this forms part of a co-ordinated multi-organ homoeostatic response to acidosis, skeletal muscle and down-regulated urea production supplying the nitrogen required for renal ammoniagenesis.