Validation of a single biopsy approach and bolus protein feeding to determine myofibrillar protein synthesis in stable isotope tracer studies in humans

Stuart M. Phillips, Nicholas A. Burd, Daniel Wd West, Tracy Rerecich, Todd Prior, Steven K. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Minimizing the number of muscle biopsies has important methodological implications and minimizes subject discomfort during a stable isotope amino acid infusion. We aimed to determine the reliability of obtaining a single muscle biopsy for the calculation of muscle protein fractional synthetic rate (FSR) as well as the amount of incorporation time necessary to obtain that biopsy after initiating a stable isotope infusion (Study 1). The calculation of muscle protein FSR requires tracer steady-state during the stable isotope infusion. Therefore, a second aim was to examine if steady-state conditions are compromised in the precursor pools (plasma free or muscle intracellular [IC]) after ingestion of a tracer enriched protein drink and after resistance exercise (Study 2). Methods. Sixteen men (23 3 years; BMI = 23.8 2.2 kg/m2, means SD) were randomized to perform Study 1 or Study 2 (n = 8, per study). Subjects received a primed, constant infusion of L-[ring- 13C6]phenylalanine coupled with muscle biopsies of the vastus lateralis to measure rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis (MPS). Subjects in Study 2 were fed 25 g of whey protein immediately after an acute bout of unilateral resistance exercise. Results: There was no difference (P = 0.3) in rates of MPS determined using the steady-state precursor-product equation and determination of tracer incorporation between sequential biopsies 150 min apart or using plasma protein as the baseline enrichment, provided the infusion length was sufficient (230 0.3 min). We also found that adding a modest amount of tracer (4% enriched), calculated based on the measured phenylalanine content of the protein (3.5%) in the drink, did not compromise steady-state conditions (slope of the enrichment curve not different from zero) in the plasma free or, more importantly, the IC pool (both P > 0.05). Conclusions: These data demonstrate that the single biopsy approach yields comparable rates of muscle protein synthesis, provided a longer incorporation time is utilized, to that seen with a traditional two biopsy approach. In addition, we demonstrate that enriching protein-containing drinks with tracer does not disturb isotopic steady-state and thus both are reliable techniques to determine rates of MPS in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15
JournalNutrition and Metabolism
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Validation of a single biopsy approach and bolus protein feeding to determine myofibrillar protein synthesis in stable isotope tracer studies in humans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this