Inhibition of muscle glutamine formation in hypercatabolic patients

G. Biolo, R. Y. Declan Flemming, S. P. Maggi, T. T. Nguyen, D. N. Herndon, R. R. Wolfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Glutamine is synthesized primarily in skeletal muscle, and enables transfer of nitrogen to the liver, as well as serving other functions. There is increasing evidence for beneficial clinical effects of glutamine supplementation in critically ill patients. However, the response of endogenous glutamine formation to severe stress is poorly understood. The rates of net protein balance, leucine oxidative decarboxylation, and alanine and glutamine synthesis de novo were determined in leg skeletal muscle of 20 severely burned patients and 19 normal controls in the post-absorptive state. Patients were studied at 14±5 days post-burn, and their mean burn size was 66±18% of total body surface area. Methods were based on the leg arteriovenous balance technique in combination with biopsies of the vastus lateralis muscle. In the post-absorptive state, patients with severe burns, as compared with healthy control subjects, exhibited accelerated muscle loss (+150%) (i.e. proteolysis minus synthesis) and leucine oxidative decarboxylation (+ 117%), and depletion of the intramuscular free glutamine pool (-63%). The average rate of glutamine synthesis de novo was decreased by 48%, whereas net alanine synthesis de novo was increased by 174%, in skeletal muscle of burned patients. In conclusion, in severely hypercatabolic burned patients, muscle glutamine formation was suppressed, whereas alanine was the major vehicle for inter-organ nitrogen transport. These changes account for a decreased glutamine availability during prolonged severe stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-194
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000


  • Alanine
  • Burn patients
  • Glucose uptake
  • Glutamine
  • Protein catabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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