Decrease in human quadriceps muscle protein turnover consequent upon leg immobilization

Clin Sci (Lond). 1987 Apr;72(4):503-9. doi: 10.1042/cs0720503.


Quadriceps muscle protein turnover was assessed in the post-absorptive state in six men immediately after the end of unilateral leg immobilization (37 +/- 4 days) in a plaster cast after tibial fracture. A primed-constant intravenous infusion of L-[1-13C]leucine was administered over 7 h. Quadriceps needle biopsies, taken bilaterally at the end of the infusion, were analysed for muscle protein leucine enrichment with 13C. Quadriceps muscle protein synthetic rate, calculated from the fractional incorporation of [13C]leucine into protein compared with the average enrichment of blood alpha-ketoisocaproate, was 0.046 +/- 0.012%/h in the uninjured leg, but was only 0.034 +/- 0.007%/h in the quadriceps of the previously fractured leg (P less than 0.05, means +/- SD). Muscle RNA activity (i.e. protein synthetic rate per RNA) fell from 0.27 +/- 0.08 microgram of protein synthesized h-1 microgram-1 of RNA in the control leg to 0.14 +/- 0.03 microgram of protein synthesized h-1 microgram-1 of RNA in the immobilized leg (P less than 0.02). Immobilization was associated with a significant atrophy of type I muscle fibres (mean diameter 69.5 +/- 21 microns immobilized, 81.1 +/- 18 microns control, P less than 0.05), but no significant change occurred in type II fibre diameter. Mean quadriceps fibre volume calculated from the values for fibre diameter and percentage of each fibre type, was smaller in the injured leg by 10.6%; this value was near to the calculated difference in muscle thigh volume (calculated from thigh circumference and skin-fold thickness) which was less by 8.3%.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Fracture Fixation*
  • Humans
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • RNA / metabolism
  • Tibial Fractures / metabolism*
  • Tibial Fractures / surgery


  • Muscle Proteins
  • RNA
  • DNA
  • Leucine