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J Biol Chem. 2000 Sep 22;275(38):29900-6.

Leucine limitation induces autophagy and activation of lysosome-dependent proteolysis in C2C12 myotubes through a mammalian target of rapamycin-independent signaling pathway.

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Unité de Nutrition Cellulaire et Moléculaire, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique de Theix, 63122 St. Genès Champanelle, France.


Loss of muscle mass usually characterizes different pathologies (sepsis, cancer, trauma) and also occurs during normal aging. One reason for muscle wasting relates to a decrease in food intake. This study addressed the role of leucine as a regulator of protein breakdown in mouse C2C12 myotubes and aimed to determine which cellular responses regulate the process. Determination of the rate of protein breakdown indicated that leucine is one key regulator of this process in myotubes because starvation for this amino acid is responsible for 30-40% of the total increase generated by total amino acid starvation. Leucine restriction rapidly accelerates the rate of protein breakdown (+11 to 15% (p < 0.001) after 1 h of starvation) in a dose-dependent manner. By using various inhibitors, evidence is provided that acceleration of protein catabolism results mainly from an induction of autophagy, activation of lysosome-dependent proteolysis, without modification of mRNA levels encoding the lysosomal cathepsins B, L, or D. Those results suggest that autophagy is an essential cellular response for increasing protein breakdown in muscle following food deprivation. Induction of autophagy precedes a decrease in global protein synthesis (-20% to -30% (p < 0.001)) that occurs after 3 h of leucine starvation. Inhibition of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activity does not abolish the effect of leucine starvation and the level of phosphorylated ribosomal S6 protein is not affected by leucine withdrawal. These latter data provide clear evidence that the mTOR signaling pathway is not involved in the mediation of leucine effects on both protein synthesis and degradation in C2C12 myotubes.

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