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Br J Pharmacol. 1992 Jun;106(2):476-82.

Effect of the beta-adrenoceptor agonist clenbuterol and phytohaemagglutinin on growth, protein synthesis and polyamine metabolism of tissues of the rat.

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Rowett Research Institute, Bucksburn, Aberdeen.


1. The kidney bean lectin, phytohaemagglutinin (PHA), induced a marked atrophy of skeletal muscle which was evident from the changes in tissue composition (protein, RNA, DNA and polyamine content) and from the reduction in weight and protein synthesis of hind leg muscles of rats fed on kidney bean-diets for four days. The beta-adrenoceptor agonist, clenbuterol, induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy by transiently stimulating protein synthesis. As a consequence, the muscle loss caused by a short exposure to PHA was, in part, ameliorated by clenbuterol treatment. 2. Cardiac muscle was affected to a lesser extent than skeletal muscle by both clenbuterol and the lectin. However, there was evidence that protein synthesis in heart was reduced by PHA. 3. PHA had opposite effects on the gut, the lectin-induced hyperplasia of the jejunum was accompanied by a large increase in protein synthesis. Clenbuterol alone had no effect on the jejunum whereas a combination of PHA and clenbuterol appeared to exacerbate the effect of the lectin on gut. 4. Both the lectin-induced gut growth and the hypertrophy of skeletal muscle caused by clenbuterol were preceded by the accumulation of polyamines in the respective tissues. Of particular note was the observation that a significant increase in the proportion of the intraperitoneally injected 14C-labelled spermidine or putrescine taken up by the growing tissues could be detected by the second day. Therefore, the measurement of uptake of labelled polyamines may be used as a sensitive indicator of early alterations in tissue metabolism.

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