When neonatal pigs continuously fed formula are supplemented with leucine pulses, muscle protein synthesis and body weight gain are enhanced. To identify the responsible mechanisms, we combined plasma metabolomic analysis with transcriptome expression of the transcriptome and protein catabolic pathways in skeletal muscle. Piglets (n = 23, 7-day-old) were fed continuously a milk replacement formula via orogastric tube for 21 days with an additional parenteral infusion (800 μmol kg-1 h-1) of either leucine (LEU) or alanine (CON) for 1 h every 4 h. Plasma metabolites were measured by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Gene and protein expression analyses of longissimus dorsi muscle were performed by RNA-seq and Western blot, respectively. Compared with CON, LEU pigs had increased plasma levels of leucine-derived metabolites, including 4-methyl-2-oxopentanoate, beta-hydroxyisovalerate, β-hydroxyisovalerylcarnitine, and 3-methylglutaconate (P ≤ 0.05). Leucine pulses downregulated transcripts enriched in the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes terms "spliceosome," "GAP junction," "endocytosis," "ECM-receptor interaction," and "DNA replication". Significant correlations were identified between metabolites derived from leucine catabolism and muscle genes involved in protein degradation, transcription and translation, and muscle maintenance and development (P ≤ 0.05). Further, leucine pulses decreased protein expression of autophagic markers and serine/threonine kinase 4, involved in muscle atrophy (P ≤ 0.01). In conclusion, results from our studies support the notion that leucine pulses during continuous enteral feeding enhance muscle mass gain in neonatal pigs by increasing protein synthetic activity and downregulating protein catabolic pathways through concerted responses in the transcriptome and metabolome.
Keywords: Leucine; Metabolomics; Orogastric feeding; Protein synthesis; Transcriptomics.