Of flux and flooding: the advantages and problems of different isotopic methods for quantifying protein turnover in vivo: I. Methods based on the dilution of a tracer

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 1999 Jan;2(1):23-8. doi: 10.1097/00075197-199901000-00005.


The advantages and problems, both practical and theoretical, of isotope dilution approaches to the determination of whole-body and tissue protein turnover are discussed. It was concluded that: (1) measurements made on the basis of the labelling of plasma and breath are well suited to the measurement of body amino acid oxidation and balance, but because of the problem of inhomogeneity of the body amino acid pools, this approach generally underestimates protein turnover; (2) in investigations of nutritional effects on whole-body amino acid turnover, closer attention should be paid to first-pass splanchnic amino acid metabolism; (3) the trans-organ tracer balance method, particularly if combined with the measurement of tissue amino acid labelling, is a potentially useful approach to the simultaneous and dynamic measurement of both protein synthesis and degradation; (4) leucine may be the most generally useful label for tracer level studies of both whole-body and muscle protein synthesis, as recent studies have shown quite close isotopic equilibrium between muscle-free and tRNA-bound leucine pools.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / blood
  • Animals
  • Arteries / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Radioisotope Dilution Technique*
  • Veins / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Proteins