Short-term prednisone use antagonizes insulin's anabolic effect on muscle protein and glucose metabolism in young healthy people

Kevin R. Short, Maureen L. Bigelow, K. Sreekumaran Nair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Glucocorticoids cause muscle atrophy and weakness, but the mechanisms for these effects are unclear. The purpose of this study was to test a hypothesis that prednisone (Pred) counteracts insulin's anabolic effects on muscle. A randomized, double-blind cross-over design was used to test the effects of 6 days either Pred (0.8 mg·kg-1·day-1) or placebo use in seven healthy young volunteers. Protein dynamics were measured across the leg using stable isotope tracers of leucine (Leu) and phenylalanine (Phe) after overnight fast and during a hyperinsulinemic (1.5 μU·min-1·kg FFM-1) euglycemic clamp with amino acid replacement. Fasting glucose, amino acids, insulin, and glucagon were higher (P < 0.01) on Pred vs. placebo, whereas leg blood flow was 18% lower. However, basal whole body and leg kinetics of Leu and Phe were unaltered by Pred. Insulin infusion increased leg glucose uptake in both trials but was 65% lower with Pred than with placebo. Insulin in both trials similarly suppressed whole body flux of Leu and Phe. Importantly, insulin increased net Leu and Phe balance across the leg and the balance between muscle protein synthesis and breakdown, but these changes were 45-140% lower (P < 0.03) in Pred than in placebo. The present study demonstrates that short-term Pred use in healthy people does not alter whole body or leg muscle protein metabolism during the postaborptive state but causes muscle insulin resistance for both glucose and amino acid metabolism, with a blunted protein anabolism. This interactive effect may lead to muscle atrophy with continued use of glucocorticoids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1260-E1268
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Amino acids
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Insulin
  • Protein synthesis
  • Skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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