Time course of the effect of catabolic doses of corticosterone on protein turnover in rat skeletal muscle and liver

Biochem J. 1983 Aug 15;214(2):617-27. doi: 10.1042/bj2140617.


The time course of the response of protein synthesis in muscle and liver to catabolic doses of corticosterone (10 mg/day per 100 g body wt.) was studied in vivo in growing rats over a 12-day period. The rate of protein synthesis in muscle and liver and the rate of actomyosin synthesis in muscle were measured by the phenylalanine-flooding technique, and 3-methylhistidine (N tau-methylhistidine) synthesis was measured by injection of labelled histidine. 3-Methylhistidine concentrations in tissue free pools and urinary excretion were also measured to compare directly with the rate of muscle protein degradation determined as the difference between synthesis and growth each day during the treatment. The overall rate of protein synthesis in muscle fell gradually over the first 4 days, reaching a rate after 5 days that was 36% of the initial rate, and this lower rate was then maintained for the following week. This decrease in the overall rate was accompanied with changes in the relative rate of synthesis in muscle proteins, since during the first 4 days there was a disproportionate decrease in the rate of actomyosin synthesis, and specifically 3-methylhistidine synthesis. In the latter case the synthesis rate was decreased to only 4% of its initial rate after 4 days. These changes in protein synthesis in muscle were accompanied by a transient increase in the rate of protein degradation, which was more than doubled on days 2 and 3 of treatment but which returned to the original rate on day 5, and a similar pattern of response was indicated by urinary 3-methylhistidine excretion, which also exhibited a transient increase. Thus in this case 3-methylhistidine excretion and measured rates of protein degradation in muscle do correlate. The transient effects of the glucocorticoids on degradation compared with the sustained effect on synthesis suggest that these two responses are achieved by different mechanisms. The hepatic size and protein mass were increased by the treatment, and protein synthesis was well maintained until after 12 days, when the rate was suppressed. Although the fractional synthesis rate was transiently increased for 24 h, it is argued that the enlarged liver most likely reflects a decrease in protein degradation resulting from the increased amino acid supply to the liver. This would result from the cessation of muscle growth while dietary supply was maintained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Corticosterone / pharmacology*
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Methylhistidines / metabolism
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscles / drug effects
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • RNA / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Time Factors


  • Methylhistidines
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Proteins
  • RNA
  • 3-methylhistidine
  • Corticosterone