To discriminate between the effects of infection and of anorexia associated with infection, liver albumin synthesis was measured in well-fed rats, in rats injected with live Escherichia coli and in pair-fed rats at different stages of the inflammatory response (1, 6 and 10 days after infection) using a large dose of l-[1-14C]valine. Albuminaemia and albumin mRNA levels were unchanged following food restriction. However, absolute albumin synthesis was decreased in pair-fed rats compared with control animals after 1 day of food restriction, and had returned to normal values by day 10 when food intake was restored. Infection was characterized by a decrease in the plasma albumin concentration (35%, 45% and 28% as compared with pair-fed rats at 1, 6 and 10 days after infection respectively). Albumin mRNA levels and relative albumin synthesis were reduced in infected rats as compared with both control and pair-fed animals at all stages of infection. However, during the early acute response, the albumin absolute synthesis rate was similar in infected rats and pair-fed rats, indicating no specific effect of infection at this stage. Later in the course of infection, the amount of albumin synthesized by the liver was lower in infected than in pair-fed rats, and hypoalbuminaemia was probably maintained due to a lack of stimulation of synthesis despite increased food intake.

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