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Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Feb;39(2):183-94. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2013-0244. Epub 2013 Aug 15.

Absence of leucine in an essential amino acid supplement reduces activation of mTORC1 signalling following resistance exercise in young females.

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a Åstrand Laboratory, Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, Stockholm SE-114 86, Sweden.


The purpose of the study was to investigate the specific effect of leucine on mTORC1 signalling and amino acid metabolism in connection with resistance exercise. Comparisons were made between ingestion of supplements with and without leucine. Eight young women performed leg press exercise on 2 occasions. In randomized order they received either an aqueous solution of essential amino acids with leucine (EAA) or without leucine (EAA-Leu), given as small boluses throughout the experiment. Muscle biopsies were taken after an overnight fast before exercise and 1 and 3 h postexercise and samples of blood were taken repeatedly during the experiment. Plasma and muscle concentrations of leucine rose 60%-140% (p < 0.05) with EAA and fell 35%-45% (p < 0.05) with the EAA-Leu supplement. In the EAA-trial, plasma and muscle levels of tyrosine (not present in the supplement) and the sum of the EAA were 15%-25% (p < 0.05) lower during recovery. Phosphorylation of mTOR and p70S6k was elevated to a larger extent following 1 h of recovery with leucine in the supplement (120% vs. 49% (p < 0.05) and 59- vs. 8-fold (p < 0.05) for EAA and EAA-Leu, respectively). The levels of MAFbx and MuRF-1 mRNA and of the corresponding proteins were not significantly altered after 3 h recovery from exercise. In conclusion, the presence of leucine in the supplement enhances the stimulatory effect on mTORC1 signalling and reduces the level of tyrosine and the sum of the EAA in muscle and plasma, suggesting a stimulation of protein synthesis and (or) inhibition of breakdown, leading to improvement in net protein balance.

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