Background: Major burn injury results in a translocation of amino acids from peripheral tissues to the abdominal viscera. Glutamine is a major participant in this event. Thermal injury causes a depletion of plasma and muscle glutamine pools as well as activation of proteolysis and release of glutamine from skeletal muscle. De novo synthesis of glutamine is regulated by the expression of the enzyme glutamine synthetase (GS). We studied the tissue-specific regulation of GS expression after thermal injury.
Methods: Burn injury of rats was produced by scalding of 25 or 40% of skin surface. In normal rats, four organs, including lung, muscle, kidney, and liver were assayed for relative GS messenger RNA content by Northern blotting 8 and 24 hours after 40% area burn. The effect of adrenalectomy on GS mRNA induction in muscle was assessed 24 hours after 25% area burn injury.
Results: GS mRNA levels were increased 2.3-fold in lung at 8 hours and 7.3-fold in muscle at 24 hours after burn injury. No appreciable increase in GS mRNA level was observed in kidney or liver. Muscle GS mRNA levels were lower than sham-operated controls in both burned and unburned adrenalectomized rats. However, adrenalectomy did not attenuate relative GS mRNA induction in muscle at 24 hours after burn injury.
Conclusions: Burn injury causes an induction in GS mRNA levels in a tissue-specific fashion. Adrenalectomy greatly reduced GS mRNA levels, but did not completely block the induction of GS express in muscle after burn injury. This finding suggests that glucocorticoid hormones together with a unknown factor of nonadrenal origin influence this metabolic response to burn injury.