Metabolic response to injury and sepsis: changes in protein metabolism

Nutrition. 1997 Sep;13(9 Suppl):52S-57S. doi: 10.1016/s0899-9007(97)00206-2.


The metabolic response to trauma and sepsis involves an increased loss of body proteins. Specific sites of changes of protein and amino acid metabolism have been identified. In skeletal muscle, the rate of proteolysis is accelerated greatly. The rate of protein synthesis also may be increased but not enough to match the increase in degradation. Intramuscular glutamine concentration is decreased because of increased efflux and possibly decreased de novo synthesis. In the liver, the rate of synthesis of selected proteins (i.e., albumin, transferrin, prealbumin, retinol-binding protein, and fibronectin) is decreased, whereas acute phase protein synthesis is accelerated. Tissues characterized by rapidly replicating cells, such as enterocytes, immune cells, granulation tissue, and keratinocytes, exhibit early alterations in the case of decreased protein synthesis capacity. In these tissues, glutamine use is accelerated. Increased stress hormone (cortisol and glucagon) and cytokine secretion, as well as intracellular glutamine depletion, are potential mediators of altered protein metabolism in trauma and sepsis. However, the relative importance of these factors has not been clarified. Therapy of acute protein catabolism may include the use of biosynthetic human growth hormone, possibly in combination with insulin-like growth factor-1, and the administration of metabolites at pharmacologic doses. We recently studied the effects of carnitine and alanyl-glutamine administration in severely traumatized patients. We found that both carnitine and the glutamine dipeptide restrained whole-body nitrogen loss without affecting selected indices of protein metabolism in the skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carnitine / therapeutic use
  • Dipeptides / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Support
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Sepsis / metabolism*
  • Sepsis / therapy
  • Wounds and Injuries / metabolism*
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy


  • Dipeptides
  • Proteins
  • Carnitine
  • alanylglutamine