Muscle Protein Synthesis after Protein Administration in Critical Illness

Lee Anne S. Chapple, Imre W.K. Kouw, Matthew J. Summers, Luke M. Weinel, Samuel Gluck, Eamon Raith, Peter Slobodian, Stijn Soenen, Adam M. Deane, Luc J.C. van Loon, Marianne J. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: Dietary protein may attenuate the muscle atrophy experienced by patients in the ICU, yet protein handling is poorly understood. Objectives: To quantify protein digestion and amino acid absorption and fasting and postprandial myofibrillar protein synthesis during critical illness. Methods: Fifteen mechanically ventilated adults (12 male; aged 50 ± 17 yr; body mass index, 27 ± 5 kg⋅m-2) and 10 healthy control subjects (6 male; 54 ± 23 yr; body mass index, 27 ± 4 kg⋅m-2) received a primed intravenous L-[ring-2H5]-phenylalanine, L-[3,5-2H2]-tyrosine, and L-[1-13C]-leucine infusion over 9.5 hours and a duodenal bolus of intrinsically labeled (L-[1-13C]-phenylalanine and L-[1-13C]-leucine) intact milk protein (20 g protein) over 60 minutes. Arterial blood and muscle samples were taken at baseline (fasting) and for 6 hours following duodenal protein administration. Data are mean ± SD, analyzed with two-way repeated measures ANOVA and independent samples t test. Measurements and Main Results: Fasting myofibrillar protein synthesis rates did not differ between ICU patients and healthy control subjects (0.023 ± 0.013% h-1 vs. 0.034 ± 0.016% h-1; P = 0.077). After protein administration, plasma amino acid availability did not differ between groups (ICU patients, 54.2 ± 9.1%, vs. healthy control subjects, 61.8 ± 13.1%; P =  0.12), and myofibrillar protein synthesis rates increased in both groups (0.028 ± 0.010% h-1 vs. 0.043 ± 0.018% h-1; main time effect P = 0.046; P-interaction = 0.584) with lower rates in ICU patients than in healthy control subjects (main group effect P = 0.001). Incorporation of protein-derived phenylalanine into myofibrillar protein was ∼60% lower in ICU patients (0.007 ± 0.007 mol percent excess vs. 0.017 ± 0.009 mol percent excess; P = 0.007). Conclusions: The capacity for critically ill patients to use ingested protein for muscle protein synthesis is markedly blunted despite relatively normal protein digestion and amino acid absorption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-749
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number6
Early online date18 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2022


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