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J Clin Invest. 1989 May;83(5):1614-22.

Infusion of tumor necrosis factor/cachectin promotes muscle catabolism in the rat. A synergistic effect with interleukin 1.

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Cancer Research Institute, New England Deaconess Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02215.


To improve our understanding of the metabolic role of cytokines in protein wasting, we estimated the rates of protein synthesis and degradation in muscle and liver tissues in intact rats treated with several doses of recombinant IL 1 and/or tumor necrosis factor (TNF)/cachectin. Protein breakdown in muscle and liver were derived in vivo from the relationship between [14C]leucine distribution and tissue dilution in reference to circulating leucine. Synthesis was derived from the relationship between [14C]leucine appearance in the protein-bound and free-tissue leucine pools. To specifically relate changes in leucine tracer metabolism to protein dynamics, we separately measured the effect of these cytokines on blood flow to different tissues. The increase in dilution of the tissue-free [14C]leucine by TNF and TNF/IL 1 mixture, but not by IL 1 alone, could not be explained by a hemodynamic effect of these cytokines. Rather, this finding indicated that muscle proteolysis is enhanced by TNF and synergistically augmented by the addition of IL 1. Compatible with these data was the finding that more prolonged infusions of recombinant TNF/cachectin and the combination with IL 1 increased urinary nitrogen excretion. Changes in [14C]leucine dilution in the liver were less pronounced than those in skeletal muscle and consistent with net anabolic effect of TNF on liver protein. We conclude that rats exposed systemically to sublethal doses of TNF respond with increasing muscle and decreasing liver proteolysis, similar to that observed in inflammation and in cancer.

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