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Open Access Research

Leucine-rich diet supplementation modulates foetal muscle protein metabolism impaired by Walker-256 tumour

Bread Cruz and Maria CC Gomes-Marcondes*

Author Affiliations

Laboratory of Nutrition and Cancer, Department of Structural and Functional Biology, Institute of Biology, State University of Campinas - UNICAMP Campinas, 13083862 Sao Paulo, Brazil

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Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 2014, 12:2  doi:10.1186/1477-7827-12-2

Published: 3 January 2014

Abstract

Background

Cancer-cachexia induces a variety of metabolic disorders of protein turnover and is more pronounced when associated with pregnancy. Tumour-bearing pregnant rats have impaired protein balance, which decreases protein synthesis and increases muscle breakdown. Because branched-chain amino acids, especially leucine, stimulate protein synthesis, we investigated the effect of a leucine-rich diet on protein metabolism in the foetal gastrocnemius muscles of tumour-bearing pregnant rats.

Methods

Foetuses of pregnant rats with or without Walker 256 tumours were divided into six groups. During the 20 days of the experiment, the pregnant groups were fed with either a control diet (C, control rats; W, tumour-bearing rats; Cp, rats pair-fed the same normoprotein-diet as the W group) or with a leucine-rich diet (L, leucine rats; LW, leucine tumour-bearing rats; and Lp, rats pair-fed the same leucine-rich diet as the LW group). After the mothers were sacrificed, the foetal gastrocnemius muscle samples were resected, and the protein synthesis and degradation and tissue chymotrypsin-like, cathepsin and calpain enzyme activities were assayed. The muscle oxidative enzymes (catalase, glutathione-S-transferase and superoxide dismutase), alkaline phosphatase enzyme activities and lipid peroxidation (malondialdehyde) were also measured.

Results

Tumour growth led to a reduction in foetal weight associated with decreased serum protein, albumin and glucose levels and low haematocrit in the foetuses of the W group, whereas in the LW foetuses, these changes were less pronounced. Muscle protein synthesis (measured by L-[3H]-phenylalanine incorporation) was reduced in the W foetuses but was restored in the LW group. Protein breakdown (as assessed by tyrosine release) was enhanced in the L and W groups, but chymotrypsin-like activity increased only in group W and tended toward an increase in the LW foetuses. The activity of cathepsin H was significantly higher in the W group foetuses, but the proteolytic calcium-dependent pathway showed similar enzyme activity. In parallel, an intense oxidative stress process was observed only in the group W foetuses.

Conclusions

These data suggested that the proteasomal and lysosomal proteolytic pathways and oxidative stress are likely to participate in the process of foetal muscle catabolism of Walker’s tumour-bearing pregnant rats. The present work shows that foetal muscle can be protected by supplementation with a leucine-rich diet.

Keywords:
Foetal protein metabolism; Nutritional supplementation; Leucine; Walker tumour; Proteasome