Mechanisms and nutritional significance of metabolic responses to altered intakes of protein and amino acids, with reference to nutritional adaptation in humans

Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Feb;51(2):270-89. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/51.2.270.


Altered intakes of protein and amino acids modulate the rates of the major systems (protein synthesis, protein degradation, and amino acid oxidation) responsible for the maintenance of organ and whole-body protein and amino acid homeostasis. The cellular mechanisms responsible for such changes at low intakes are discussed. For oxidation amino acid availability is a primary determinant and protein synthesis is affected particularly at the initiation phase. Much remains to be learned about amino acid-dependent changes in mRNA synthesis, processing, turnover, and translation. The relationships between protein and amino acid intake and components of whole-body protein and amino acid kinetics are considered with reference to nutritional adaptation and accommodation. The limit of adaptation to protein intake cannot be lowered substantially beyond that for healthy adults whose habitual protein intake is generous. Metabolic control theory should be considered in the interpretation of results of studies dealing with amino acid requirement estimations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adult
  • Amino Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger