Impaired translation initiation activation and reduced protein synthesis in weaned piglets fed a low-protein diet Academic Article uri icon


  • Weanling mammals (including infants) often experience intestinal dysfunction when fed a high-protein diet. Recent work with the piglet (an animal model for studying human infant nutrition) shows that reducing protein intake can improve gut function during weaning but compromises the provision of essential amino acids (EAA) for muscle growth. The present study was conducted with weaned pigs to test the hypothesis that supplementing deficient EAA (Lys, Met, Thr, Trp, Leu, Ile and Val) to a low-protein diet may maintain the activation of translation initiation factors and adequate protein synthesis in tissues. Pigs were weaned at 21 days of age and fed diets containing 20.7, 16.7 or 12.7% crude protein (CP), with the low-CP diets supplemented with EAA to achieve the levels in the high-CP diet. On Day 14 of the trial, tissue protein synthesis was determined using the phenylalanine flooding dose method. Reducing dietary CP levels decreased protein synthesis in pancreas, liver, kidney and longissimus muscle. A low-CP diet reduced the phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 4E-binding protein-1 (4E-BP1) in skeletal muscle and liver while increasing the formation of an inactive eIF4E.4E-BP1 complex in muscle. Dietary protein deficiency also decreased the phosphorylation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and the formation of an active eIF4E.eIF4G complex in liver. These results demonstrate for the first time that chronic feeding of a low-CP diet suppresses protein synthesis in animals partly by inhibiting mTOR signaling. Additionally, our findings indicate that supplementing deficient EAA to low-protein diets is not highly effective in restoring protein synthesis or whole-body growth in piglets. We suggest that conditionally essential amino acids (e.g., glutamine and arginine) may be required to maintain the activation of translation initiation factors and optimal protein synthesis in neonates.

author list (cited authors)

  • Deng, D., Yao, K., Chu, W., Li, T., Huang, R., Yin, Y., ... Wu, G.

citation count

  • 85
  • 87

publication date

  • September 2008