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Br J Nutr. 1990 May;63(3):535-45.

Effects of bovine pituitary growth hormone alone or in combination with the beta-agonist clenbuterol on muscle growth and composition in veal calves.

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  • 1Rowett Research Institute, Bucksburn, Aberdeen.


Twenty-three British Friesian bull calves at approximately 7 d of age were allocated to one of four treatments: controls untreated (five calves), a group (Clen) given 1 mg clenbuterol/kg diet (five calves), a group (GH) given a daily subcutaneous injection of 3.5 mg bovine pituitary growth hormone (GH) (five calves) and a group (Clen + GH) given a combination of clenbuterol as in the Clen group with GH as in the GH group (seven calves). All calves were given milk-substitute at levels adjusted weekly according to metabolic live weight. The animals were slaughtered over the weight range 150-170 kg. Samples of semimembranosus and triceps muscles were excised at slaughter. Treatment with GH produced approximately a threefold increase in mean daily serum GH concentration. Calves given Clen + GH were heaviest at slaughter and the combined treatment produced a significantly higher (P less than 0.01) feed conversion ratio. Administration of clenbuterol either alone or in combination with GH increased the cross-sectional area of both fast twitch glycolytic (FG), and fast twitch oxidative glycolytic (FOG) fibres in both muscles. In contrast GH produced little change in fibre size in semimembranosus muscle, although FOG fibres in triceps were slightly larger than in controls. Neither Clen nor GH resulted in any change in fibre percentage frequency in either muscle. Treatments involving clenbuterol produced a significant decrease in muscle glycogen concentration. Muscles from all three treatment groups tended to show small increases in protein and RNA concentration compared with the controls. Muscles from animals treated with GH alone exhibited an increase in DNA concentration not seen in muscles from the two other treatment groups. Overall, the differential response to the two agents suggested that clenbuterol does not mediate its effects via the GH axis, and that an additive response in terms of protein anabolism may be achieved from the use of a combination of clenbuterol plus GH.

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