Purpose of review: To discuss the recent work examining the importance of taurine in skeletal muscle and outline the discrepancy that exists between research findings in rodent vs. human skeletal muscle.
Recent findings: There is clear evidence that a normal taurine level is important for the normal functioning of skeletal muscle. Taurine is believed to be involved in many cellular functions, but in skeletal muscle its main roles are to facilitate Ca2+ dependent excitation-contraction processes, contribute to the regulation of cellular volume, and aid in antioxidant defense from stress responses. Most research has studied the importance of taurine in rodent skeletal muscle by downregulating and upregulating the muscle taurine content and examining the effects on the functioning of skeletal muscle at rest and during the stress of contractions (exercise). One successful research approach is to supplement the diet with taurine, which leads to increases in muscle taurine content and contractile function in rodents. However, this approach does not work in human skeletal muscle as the processes involved in the transport of taurine into the muscle are resistant to large and prolonged increases in plasma taurine following oral taurine supplementation. At present, attempts to influence muscle function with taurine supplementation can only occur through interactions outside the muscle cell in humans.
Summary: Future research should target the mechanisms responsible for the transport of taurine into human skeletal muscle and determine why the muscle defends the normal taurine content in the face of elevated plasma taurine levels, as opposed to the results in rodent muscle. This may lead to more fruitful usage of taurine as a skeletal muscle enhancing nutrient in athletic and clinical populations.