Background & aims: Amino acid (AA) availability is critical to maintain protein homeostasis and reduced protein intake causes a decline in protein synthesis. Citrulline, an amino acid metabolite, has been reported to stimulate muscle protein synthesis in malnourished rats. Methods: To determine whether citrulline stimulates muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults while on a low-protein diet, we studied 8 healthy participants twice in a cross-over study design. Following a 3-days of low-protein intake, either citrulline or a non-essential AA mixture (NEAA) was given orally as small boluses over the course of 8h. [ring-13C6] phenylalanine and [15N] tyrosine were administered as tracers to assess protein metabolism. Fractional synthesis rates (FSR) of muscle proteins were measured using phenylalanine enrichment in muscle tissue fluid as the precursor pool. Results: FSR of mixed muscle protein was higher during the administration of citrulline than during NEAA (NEAA: 0.049±0.005; citrulline: 0.060±0.006; P=0.03), while muscle mitochondrial protein FSR and whole-body protein turnover were not different between the studies. Citrulline administration increased arginine and ornithine plasma concentrations without any effect on glucose, insulin, C-peptide, and IGF-1 levels. Citrulline administration did not promote mitochondria protein synthesis, transcripts, or citrate synthesis. Conclusions: Citrulline ingestion enhances mixed muscle protein synthesis in healthy participants on 3-day low-protein intake. This anabolic action of citrulline appears to be independent of insulin action and may offer potential clinical application in conditions involving low amino acid intake.
- Protein synthesis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nutrition and Dietetics
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine