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Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2005 Jun;288(6):G1292-300. Epub 2004 Dec 9.

Branched-chain amino acids improve glucose metabolism in rats with liver cirrhosis.

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Pharmaceutical Research Laboratories, Ajinomoto Co., Inc., Kawasaki-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Japan.


It is well established that impaired glucose metabolism is a frequent complication in patients with hepatic cirrhosis. We previously showed that leucine, one of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), promotes glucose uptake under insulin-free conditions in isolated skeletal muscle from normal rats. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects of BCAA on glucose metabolism in a rat model of CCl(4)-induced cirrhosis (CCl(4) rats). Oral glucose tolerance tests were performed on BCAA-treated CCl(4) rats. In the CCl(4) rats, treatment with leucine or isoleucine, but not valine, improved glucose tolerance significantly, with the effect of isoleucine being greater than the effect of leucine. Glucose uptake experiments using isolated soleus muscle from the CCl(4) rats revealed that leucine and isoleucine, but not valine, promoted glucose uptake under insulin-free conditions. To clarify the mechanism of the blood glucose-lowering effects of BCAA, we collected soleus muscles from BCAA-treated CCl(4) rats with or without a glucose load. These samples were used to determine the subcellular location of glucose transporter proteins and glycogen synthase (GS) activity. Oral administration of leucine or isoleucine without a glucose load induced GLUT4 and GLUT1 translocation to the plasma membrane. GS activity was augmented only in leucine-treated rats and was completely inhibited by rapamycin, an inhibitor of mammalian target of rapamycin. In summary, we found that leucine and isoleucine improved glucose metabolism in CCl(4) rats by promoting glucose uptake in skeletal muscle. This effect occurred as a result of upregulation of GLUT4 and GLUT1 and also by mammalian target of rapamycin-dependent activation of GS in skeletal muscle. From these results, we consider that BCAA treatment may have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism in cirrhotic patients.

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