The Journal of nutrition

Citrulline does not prevent skeletal muscle wasting or weakness in limb-casted mice.

PMID 25740910


Increasing arginine (Arg) availability reduces atrophy in cultured skeletal muscle cells. Supplementation with its metabolic precursor citrulline (Cit) is more effective at improving skeletal muscle Arg concentrations. We tested the hypothesis that Cit supplementation would attenuate skeletal muscle atrophy and loss of function during hindlimb immobilization in mice. Male C57BL/6JArc mice underwent 14 d of unilateral hindlimb immobilization/plaster casting and were supplemented with ~0.81 g Cit · kg⁻¹ · d⁻¹ (CIT group) or Ala (ALA group) mixed into their food. The uncasted contralateral limb (internal control) and an uncasted group (CON) served as controls. Muscle atrophy was evaluated with mass, fiber area, and in situ muscle function. Tibialis anterior (TA) muscle mass [ALA: 37.6 ± 0.92 mg; CIT: 38.3 ± 1.25 mg] and peak tetanic force (ALA: 1150 ± 38.5 mN; CIT: 1150 ± 52.0 mN) were lower (P < 0.001) in the ALA (53.9 ± 0.42 mg) and CIT (1760 ± 28.5 mN) groups than in the CON group. No difference was found between ALA and CIT groups for TA mass, fiber area, or peak force. The mRNA expression of the nitric oxide synthase 2, inducible (Nos2; ~15-fold) and B-cell chronic lymphoid leukemia/lymphoma 2/adenovirus E1B 19 kDa interacting protein 3 (Bnip3; ~17-fold) genes and the ratio of microtubule-associated protein light chain 3BII to 3BI (LC3BII:LC3BI) (50.5% ± 17.7%) were higher (P < 0.05) in the ALA group than in the CON group, suggesting increased autophagy. In the CIT group, Bnip3 mRNA was lower (-70%; P < 0.05) and Nos2 mRNA tended to be lower (-45%; P = 0.05) than in the ALA group, whereas LC3BII:LC3BI was not different from the CON group. Cit treatment of male mice did not affect therapeutically relevant outcome measures such as skeletal muscle mass and peak muscle force after 14 d of hindlimb immobilization.