New therapeutic strategy for amino acid medicine: notable functions of branched chain amino acids as biological regulators

J Pharmacol Sci. 2012;118(2):149-55. doi: 10.1254/jphs.11r05fm. Epub 2012 Jan 27.


The branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the most abundant of the essential amino acids. BCAAs have recently been recognized as having functions other than simple nutrition. The importance of BCAAs as nutrient regulators in protein synthesis was recognized over 20 years ago. Leucine is the most potent of the BCAAs in stimulating muscle protein synthesis, while isoleucine and valine are much less effective. The signaling action of leucine in protein synthesis has been well studied, and the mechanisms are currently under investigation. However, the pharmacological effects of isoleucine and valine have not been clarified. It has recently been reported that, among the BCAAs, leucine and isoleucine act as signals in glucose metabolism. We revealed that isoleucine stimulates both glucose uptake in the muscle and whole body glucose oxidation, in addition to depressing gluconeogenesis in the liver, thereby leading to a hypoglycemic effect in rats. Based on these results, we speculate that isoleucine signaling accelerates catabolism of incorporated glucose for energy production and consumption.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gluconeogenesis / drug effects
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Isoleucine / pharmacology*
  • Leucine / pharmacology*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Muscle Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Valine / pharmacology*


  • Muscle Proteins
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Valine
  • Glucose