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J Physiol. 2015 Sep 15;593(18):4259-73. doi: 10.1113/JP270699. Epub 2015 Jul 31.

Age-related differences in lean mass, protein synthesis and skeletal muscle markers of proteolysis after bed rest and exercise rehabilitation.

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Division of Nutrition, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Department of Physical Therapy, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Institute of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopedic Surgery M, Bispebjerg Hospital and Centre for Healthy Aging, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Exercise and Sport Science, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, USA.


Bed rest-induced muscle loss and impaired muscle recovery may contribute to age-related sarcopenia. It is unknown if there are age-related differences in muscle mass and muscle anabolic and catabolic responses to bed rest. A secondary objective was to determine if rehabilitation could reverse bed rest responses. Nine older and fourteen young adults participated in a 5-day bed rest challenge (BED REST). This was followed by 8 weeks of high intensity resistance exercise (REHAB). Leg lean mass (via dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry; DXA) and strength were determined. Muscle biopsies were collected during a constant stable isotope infusion in the postabsorptive state and after essential amino acid (EAA) ingestion on three occasions: before (PRE), after bed rest and after rehabilitation. Samples were assessed for protein synthesis, mTORC1 signalling, REDD1/2 expression and molecular markers related to muscle proteolysis (MURF1, MAFBX, AMPKα, LC3II/I, Beclin1). We found that leg lean mass and strength decreased in older but not younger adults after bedrest (P < 0.05) and was restored after rehabilitation. EAA-induced mTORC1 signalling and protein synthesis increased before bed rest in both age groups (P < 0.05). Although both groups had blunted mTORC1 signalling, increased REDD2 and MURF1 mRNA after bedrest, only older adults had reduced EAA-induced protein synthesis rates and increased MAFBX mRNA, p-AMPKα and the LC3II/I ratio (P < 0.05). We conclude that older adults are more susceptible than young persons to muscle loss after short-term bed rest. This may be partially explained by a combined suppression of protein synthesis and a marginal increase in proteolytic markers. Finally, rehabilitation restored bed rest-induced deficits in lean mass and strength in older adults.

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