Effect of leucine on amino acid and glucose metabolism in humans

Metabolism. 1992 Jun;41(6):643-8. doi: 10.1016/0026-0495(92)90057-h.


Leucine has been reported to be an important regulator of protein metabolism. We investigated the effect of intravenous infusion of L-leucine versus saline on amino acid metabolism in eight healthy human subjects. Plasma concentrations of amino acids were measured and protein turnover was estimated using L-(1-13C)lysine and L-(3,3,3,-2H3)leucine as tracers. Glucose kinetics were measured using D-(6,6-2H2)glucose as a tracer. Leucine infusion increased the plasma leucine concentration from 103 +/- 8 to 377 +/- 35 mumol/L (P less than .01). Plasma concentrations of essential amino acids, including threonine, methionine, isoleucine, valine, tyrosine, and phenylalanine were significantly decreased by leucine infusion. Leucine infusion did not change lysine flux significantly (108 +/- 4 during saline v 101 +/- 4 mumol/kg/h-1 during leucine infusion), but decreased lysine oxidation (13.2 +/- 0.9 v 10.7 +/- 1 mumol/kg/h, P less than .05) and endogenous leucine flux (from 128 +/- 4 to 113 +/- 7 mumol/kg/h, P less than .05) when plasma (2H3) ketoisocaproate (KIC) was used for calculation. During leucine infusion, the (2H3) KIC to (2H3) leucine plasma enrichment ratio increased from 0.76 +/- 0.02 to 0.88 +/- 0.01 (P less than .001), while estimation of leucine flux using plasma (2H3) leucine showed no change in endogenous leucine flux. Leucine infusion decreased hepatic glucose production and metabolic clearance of glucose, but did not change plasma concentrations of glucose, insulin, C-peptide, glucagon, epinephrine, norepinephrine, or free fatty acids. We conclude that leucine spares glucose and lysine catabolism and decreases plasma concentrations of essential amino acids.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acids / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Hormones / blood
  • Humans
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Leucine / pharmacology*
  • Lysine / pharmacokinetics
  • Male
  • Proteins / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Hormones
  • Proteins
  • Leucine
  • Glucose
  • Lysine