Background & aims: Amino acid (AA) availability is critical to maintain protein homeostasis and reduced protein intake causes a decline in protein synthesis. Citrulline, an amino acid metabolite, has been reported to stimulate muscle protein synthesis in malnourished rats.
Methods: To determine whether citrulline stimulates muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults while on a low-protein diet, we studied 8 healthy participants twice in a cross-over study design. Following a 3-days of low-protein intake, either citrulline or a non-essential AA mixture (NEAA) was given orally as small boluses over the course of 8 h. [ring-(13)C6] phenylalanine and [(15)N] tyrosine were administered as tracers to assess protein metabolism. Fractional synthesis rates (FSR) of muscle proteins were measured using phenylalanine enrichment in muscle tissue fluid as the precursor pool.
Results: FSR of mixed muscle protein was higher during the administration of citrulline than during NEAA (NEAA: 0.049 ± 0.005; citrulline: 0.060 ± 0.006; P = 0.03), while muscle mitochondrial protein FSR and whole-body protein turnover were not different between the studies. Citrulline administration increased arginine and ornithine plasma concentrations without any effect on glucose, insulin, C-peptide, and IGF-1 levels. Citrulline administration did not promote mitochondria protein synthesis, transcripts, or citrate synthesis.
Conclusions: Citrulline ingestion enhances mixed muscle protein synthesis in healthy participants on 3-day low-protein intake. This anabolic action of citrulline appears to be independent of insulin action and may offer potential clinical application in conditions involving low amino acid intake.
Keywords: Citrulline; Muscle; Phenylalanine; Protein synthesis.
Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Ltd.