Effects of aging on in vivo synthesis of skeletal muscle myosin heavy- chain and sarcoplasmic protein in humans

P. Balagopal, Olav E. Rooyackers, Deborah B. Adey, Philip A. Ades, K. Sreekumaran Nair

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A decline in muscle mass and contractile function are prominent features of the sarcopenia of old age. Because myosin heavy chain is an important contractile protein, it was hypothesized that synthesis of this protein decreases in sarcopenia. The fractional synthesis rate of myosin heavy chain was measured simultaneously with rates of mixed muscle and sarcoplasmic proteins from the increment of [13C]leucine in these proteins purified from serial needle biopsy samples taken from 24 subjects (age: from 20 to 92 yr) during a primed continuous infusion of L-[1-13C]leucine. A decline in synthesis rate of mixed muscle protein (P < 0.01) and whole body protein (P < 0.01) was observed from young to middle age with no further change with advancing age. An age-related decline of myosin heavy-chain synthesis rate was also observed (P < 0.01), with progressive decline occurring from young, through middle, to old age. However, sarcoplasmic protein synthesis did not decline with age. Myosin heavy-chain synthesis rate was correlated with measures of muscle strength (P < 0.05), circulating insulin-like growth factor I (P < 0.01), and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (P < 0.05) in men and women and free testosterone levels in men (P < 0.01). A decline in the synthesis rate of myosin heavy chain implies a decreased ability to remodel this important muscle contractile protein and likely contributes to the declining muscle mass and contractile function in the elderly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E790-E800
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4 36-4
StatePublished - Nov 17 1997



  • Contractile function
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Protein synthesis
  • Sarcopenia
  • Stable isotope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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