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Am J Physiol. 1984 May;246(5 Pt 1):E383-90.

Sites of protein conservation and loss during starvation: influence of adiposity.


Previous studies have established that older (16 wk) and more obese rats conserve body protein during prolonged starvation. This adaptation is due in part to a curtailment of muscle proteolysis. To determine whether this response occurs also in younger rats and whether protein is conserved at sites other than muscle, studies were conducted in young 6-wk-old rats previously fed either a chow or a high-fat diet before starvation. Fat feeding caused a marked increase in adipose mass and prolonged survival. Whereas chow-fed rats survived the fast for approximately 5 days, fat-fed rats lived for 10 days and diminished their excretion of nitrogen for at least 6 days, indicative of protein conservation. Despite the ability of fat-fed rats to survive the fast longer, protein was conserved in only a few organs. The timing and magnitude of protein loss from liver, kidney, intestine, and lung was similar to that in chow-fed rats, and little protein was lost during the fast from brain, stomach, skin, and soleus muscle in either group. In fat-fed rats, cardiac and skeletal muscle were the principle tissues in which protein was conserved, and this adaptation was lost when body fat stores were nearing exhaustion. In both groups nitrogen excreted in the urine early in the fast was derived mainly from protein lost from muscle, liver, and to a lesser extent intestine. Later in the fast, the principal source was muscle. These findings indicate that during starvation in the rat the conservation of protein occurs principally in skeletal and cardiac muscle. They also suggest that the ability of the rat to conserve protein is dependent on the size of its lipid stores.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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