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Oncol Rep. 2011 Jul;26(1):247-54. doi: 10.3892/or.2011.1269. Epub 2011 Apr 18.

Dose-dependent effects of leucine supplementation on preservation of muscle mass in cancer cachectic mice.

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  • 1Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition, Danone Research, Centre for Specialised Nutrition, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Cancer cachexia, which is characterized by muscle wasting, is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Because muscle protein synthesis may be increased and protein breakdown reduced by leucine supplementation, we used the C26 tumor-bearing cachectic mouse model to assess the effects of dietary supplementation with leucine on muscle weight and the markers of muscle protein breakdown (mRNA of atrogin and murf). Male CD2F1 mice were subcutaneously inoculated with tumor cells (tumor-bearing mice; TB) or were sham injected (control; C). They were fed standard diets or diets supplemented with leucine [1 gr (TB1Leu) or 8 gr (TB8Leu) supplemented leucine per kg feed]; TB and C received 8.7% Leu/g protein, TB1Leu received 9.6% Leu/g protein and TB8Leu received 14.6 Leu/g protein. After 21 days, the following were determined: body weights, plasma amino-acid concentrations, tumor size and muscle mass of the gastrocnemius (mG), tibialis anterior (mTA), extensor digitorum longus (mEDL) and soleus (mS) muscles. In tumor-bearing (TB) mice, carcass and skeletal muscle masses decreased, and levels of atrogin and murf mRNA in the mEDL increased. Muscle-mass loss was counteracted dose-dependently by leucine supplementation: relative to TB, the mass of the mG was +23% in TB8Leu, and +22% in mTA (p<0.05). However, leucine supplementation did not change atrogin and murf mRNA levels. Total plasma amino acid concentrations increased in TB, especially for taurine, lysine, arginine and alanine (p<0.05). Leucine supplementation attenuated the increase in total plasma amino-acid concentrations (p<0.05). Irrespective of changes in muscle protein breakdown markers, leucine supplementation reduced muscle wasting in tumor-bearing cachectic mice and attenuated changes in plasma amino acids.

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