1. We studied the effect of sepsis and the regulation by glutamine of protein synthesis in enterocytes isolated from the small intestine of rats.
2. Sepsis was induced by caecal ligation and puncture; control rats were sham operated. Enterocytes were isolated from the jejunum and incubated in a medium containing [3H]phenylalanine.
3. Sixteen hours after caecal ligation and puncture, protein synthesis, measured as incorporation of radioactivity into protein, was increased by 65%, 89% and 137% respectively in enterocytes from the tips and mid-portions of the villi and from the crypts.
4. Addition of glutamine to incubated enterocytes stimulated protein synthesis in a dose-dependent manner, and this effect was most pronounced in crypt cells from septic rats. The effect of glutamine on protein synthesis was duplicated by equimolar concentrations of acetoacetate or 3-hydroxybutyrate, both of which may serve as fuel for enterocytes, and was blocked by the glutaminase inhibitor 6-diazo-5-oxo-l-norleucine.
5. The results suggest that sepsis stimulates protein synthesis in enterocytes and that glutamine regulates protein synthesis in the same cells, probably by energy provision.