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Pediatr Res. 1987 Dec;22(6):688-92.

Ontogenetic changes in the rates of protein synthesis and leucine oxidation during fetal life.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver 80262.


Studies of fetal leucine metabolism and protein synthetic rate, using L-(1-14)leucine as tracer, were carried out in 12 pregnant ewes at midgestation and compared with similar studies in late gestation. The disposal rate of fetal plasma leucine ranged between 3.07 and 9.06 mumol/min and was correlated (r = 0.89) to fetal dry weight. The fluxes to CO2 excretion and to protein synthesis were 18.6 +/- 2.6 and 37.2 +/- 2.6% of disposal rate, respectively. The flux of leucine molecules into the placenta was relatively large and correlated to the placental/fetal dry weight ratio (r = 0.84). The mean fractional protein synthetic rate was 0.216 +/- 0.01 day-1. Comparison with late gestation data showed that fractional protein synthetic rate is inversely correlated (r = 0.87) to gestational age and that fetal protein synthetic rate (PRs, g/day) is related to fetal dry weight (DW,g) by the allometric equation: log PRs = -0.503 + 0.754 log DW The 0.754 exponent is similar to the exponent relating fetal oxygen consumption to dry weight (0.729). This indicates that protein synthesis and energy metabolism per g dry weight decrease during fetal growth at approximately the same rate so that the protein synthesis/oxygen consumption ratio tends to remain constant.

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