Postnatal growth of lean mass is commonly blunted in preterm infants and may contribute to short- and long-term morbidities. To determine whether preterm birth alters the protein anabolic response to feeding, piglets were delivered at term or preterm, and fractional protein synthesis rates (Ks) were measured at 3 days of age while fasted or after an enteral meal. Activation of signaling pathways that regulate protein synthesis and degradation were determined. Relative body weight gain was lower in preterm than in term. Gestational age at birth (GAB) did not alter fasting plasma glucose or insulin, but when fed, plasma insulin and glucose rose more slowly, and reached peak value later, in preterm than in term. Feeding increased Ks in longissimus dorsi (LD) and gastrocnemius muscles, heart, pancreas, and kidney in both GAB groups, but the response was blunted in preterm. In diaphragm, lung, jejunum, and brain, feeding increased Ks regardless of GAB. Liver Ks was greater in preterm than term and increased with feeding regardless of GAB. In all tissues, changes in 4EBP1, S6K1, and PKB phosphorylation paralleled changes in Ks. In LD, eIF4E·eIF4G complex formation, phosphorylation of TSC2, mTOR, and rpS6, and association of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR1) complex with RagA, RagC, and Rheb were increased by feeding and blunted by prematurity. There were no differences among groups in LD protein degradation markers. Our results demonstrate that preterm birth reduces weight gain and the protein synthetic response to feeding in muscle, pancreas, and kidney, and this is associated with blunted insulin- and/or amino acid-induced translation initiation signaling.
Keywords: amino acids; insulin; mammalian target of rapamycin; nutrition; preterm.