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Concept: Catabolism


There is currently no evidence that the intervertebral discs (IVDs) can respond positively to exercise in humans. Some authors have argued that IVD metabolism in humans is too slow to respond anabolically to exercise within the human lifespan. Here we show that chronic running exercise in men and women is associated with better IVD composition (hydration and proteoglycan content) and with IVD hypertrophy. Via quantitative assessment of physical activity we further find that accelerations at fast walking and slow running (2 m/s), but not high-impact tasks, lower intensity walking or static positions, correlated to positive IVD characteristics. These findings represent the first evidence in humans that exercise can be beneficial for the IVD and provide support for the notion that specific exercise protocols may improve IVD material properties in the spine. We anticipate that our findings will be a starting point to better define exercise protocols and physical activity profiles for IVD anabolism in humans.

Concepts: Metabolism, Exercise, Vertebral column, Physical quantities, Intervertebral disc, Stretching, Anabolism, Catabolism


BACKGROUND: Shifts in intracellular arginine (Arg) and sulfur amino acid (SAA) redox metabolism modulate macrophage activation, polarization and phenotype. Despite their importance in inflammation and redox regulatory pathways, comprehensive analysis of these metabolic networks was not previously possible with existing analytical methods. METHODS: The Arg/thiol redox LC-MS/MS metabolomics assay permits simultaneous assessment of amino acids and derivative products generated from Arg and SAA metabolism. Using this assay, LPS-induced changes in macrophage amino acid metabolism were monitored to identify pathway shifts during activation and their linkage to cellular redox regulation. RESULTS: Metabolite concentrations most significantly changed after treatment of a macrophage-like cell line (RAW) with LPS for 24 hrs were citrulline (Cit) (48-fold increase), ornithine (Orn) (8.5-fold increase), arginine (Arg) (66% decrease), and aspartic acid (Asp) (73% decrease). The ratio Cit + Orn/Arg + Asp (CO/AA) was more sensitive to LPS stimulation than other amino acid ratios commonly used to measure LPS-dependent inflammation (e.g., SAM/SAH, GSH/GSSG) and total media NOx. The CO/AA ratio was also the first ratio to change significantly after LPS treatment (4 hrs). Changes in the overall metabolomic profile over time indicated that metabolic pathways shifted from Arg catabolism to thiol oxidation. CONCLUSIONS: Simultaneous quantification of Arg and SAA metabolic pathway shifts following LPS challenge of macrophage indicate that, in this system, the Arg-Citrulline/NO cycle and arginase pathways are the amino acid metabolic pathways most sensitive to LPS-challenge. The cellular (Cit + Orn)/(Arg + Asp) ratio, which summarizes this pathway, was more responsive to lower concentrations of LPS and responded earlier than other metabolic biomarkers of macrophage activation including GSH redox. It is suggested that the CO/AA ratio is a redox- independent early biomarker of macrophage activation. The ability to measure both the CO/AA and GSH-redox ratios simultaneously permits quantification of the relative effects of LPS challenge on macrophage inflammation and oxidative stress pathways. The use of this assay in humans is discussed, as are clinical implications.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Metabolism, Enzyme, Oxidative phosphorylation, Biochemistry, Ornithine, Catabolism


While diet-induced obesity has been exclusively attributed to increased caloric intake from fat, animals fed a high-fat diet (HFD) ad libitum (ad lib) eat frequently throughout day and night, disrupting the normal feeding cycle. To test whether obesity and metabolic diseases result from HFD or disruption of metabolic cycles, we subjected mice to either ad lib or time-restricted feeding (tRF) of a HFD for 8 hr per day. Mice under tRF consume equivalent calories from HFD as those with ad lib access yet are protected against obesity, hyperinsulinemia, hepatic steatosis, and inflammation and have improved motor coordination. The tRF regimen improved CREB, mTOR, and AMPK pathway function and oscillations of the circadian clock and their target genes' expression. These changes in catabolic and anabolic pathways altered liver metabolome and improved nutrient utilization and energy expenditure. We demonstrate in mice that tRF regimen is a nonpharmacological strategy against obesity and associated diseases.

Concepts: Metabolism, Nutrition, Insulin, Obesity, Metabolic pathway, Dieting, Anabolism, Catabolism


Fatigue, mood disturbances, under performance and gastrointestinal distress are common among athletes during training and competition. The psychosocial and physical demands during intense exercise can initiate a stress response activating the sympathetic-adrenomedullary and hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axes, resulting in the release of stress and catabolic hormones, inflammatory cytokines and microbial molecules. The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms that have fundamental roles in many aspects of human biology, including metabolism, endocrine, neuronal and immune function. The gut microbiome and its influence on host behavior, intestinal barrier and immune function are believed to be a critical aspect of the brain-gut axis. Recent evidence in murine models shows that there is a high correlation between physical and emotional stress during exercise and changes in gastrointestinal microbiota composition. For instance, induced exercise-stress decreased cecal levels of Turicibacter spp and increased Ruminococcus gnavus, which have well defined roles in intestinal mucus degradation and immune function. Diet is known to dramatically modulate the composition of the gut microbiota. Due to the considerable complexity of stress responses in elite athletes (from leaky gut to increased catabolism and depression), defining standard diet regimes is difficult. However, some preliminary experimental data obtained from studies using probiotics and prebiotics studies show some interesting results, indicating that the microbiota acts like an endocrine organ (e.g. secreting serotonin, dopamine or other neurotransmitters) and may control the HPA axis in athletes. What is troubling is that dietary recommendations for elite athletes are primarily based on a low consumption of plant polysaccharides, which is associated with reduced microbiota diversity and functionality (e.g. less synthesis of byproducts such as short chain fatty acids and neurotransmitters). As more elite athletes suffer from psychological and gastrointestinal conditions that can be linked to the gut, targeting the microbiota therapeutically may need to be incorporated in athletes' diets that take into consideration dietary fiber as well as microbial taxa not currently present in athlete’s gut.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gut flora, Metabolism, Nutrition, Fatty acid, Hormone, Endocrine system, Catabolism


BACKGROUND: Current nutritional approaches have been partially successful in Cystic Fibrosis (CF). Essential amino acids mixtures with high Leucine levels (EAA) have anabolic properties in catabolic conditions, however data in CF are lacking. METHODS: On two days according a randomized crossover design, 15 pediatric CF patients ingested 6.7g EAA versus mixture of total amino acids as present in whey. Whole body protein and Arginine metabolism (as EAA lack Arginine) were assessed by stable isotope methodology. RESULTS: Protein synthesis (P<0.05) but not protein breakdown was higher after EAA and 70% higher values for net anabolism (P<0.001)were found both in patients with and without nutritional failure. Arginine turnover was lower (P<0.001) and de novo Arginine synthesis tended lower (P=0.09) after EAA. Nitric oxide synthesis was not different. CONCLUSIONS: CF patients are highly responsive to EAA intake independent of their nutritional status. Addition of Arginine to the EAA mixture may be warranted in CF.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Metabolism, Nutrition, Essential amino acid, Nitric oxide, Arginine, Catabolism


Substantial gains in muscle strength and hypertrophy are clearly associated with the routine performance of resistance training. What is less evident is the optimal timing of the resistance training stimulus to elicit these significant functional and structural skeletal muscle changes. Therefore, this investigation determined the impact of a single bout of resistance training performed either in the morning or evening upon acute anabolic signalling (insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3), myogenic index and differentiation) and catabolic processes (cortisol). Twenty-four male participants (age 21.4±1.9yrs, mass 83.7±13.7kg) with no sustained resistance training experience were allocated to a resistance exercise group (REP). Sixteen of the 24 participants were randomly selected to perform an additional non-exercising control group (CP) protocol. REP performed two bouts of resistance exercise (80% 1RM) in the morning (AM: 0800 hrs) and evening (PM: 1800 hrs), with the sessions separated by a minimum of 72 hours. Venous blood was collected immediately prior to, and 5 min after, each resistance exercise and control sessions. Serum cortisol and IGFBP-3 levels, myogenic index, myotube width, were determined at each sampling period. All data are reported as mean ± SEM, statistical significance was set at P≤0.05. As expected a significant reduction in evening cortisol concentration was observed at pre (AM: 98.4±10.5, PM: 49.8±4.4 ng/ml, P<0.001) and post (AM: 98.0±9.0, PM: 52.7±6.0 ng/ml, P<0.001) exercise. Interestingly, individual cortisol differences pre vs post exercise indicate a time-of-day effect (AM difference: -2±2.6%, PM difference: 14.0±6.7%, P = 0.03). A time-of-day related elevation in serum IGFBP-3 (AM: 3274.9 ± 345.2, PM: 3605.1 ± 367.5, p = 0.032) was also evident. Pre exercise myogenic index (AM: 8.0±0.6%, PM: 16.8±1.1%) and myotube width (AM: 48.0±3.0, PM: 71.6±1.9 μm) were significantly elevated (P<0.001) in the evening. Post exercise myogenic index was greater AM (11.5±1.6%) compared with PM (4.6±0.9%). No difference was observed in myotube width (AM: 48.5±1.5, PM: 47.8±1.8 μm) (P>0.05). Timing of resistance training regimen in the evening appears to augment some markers of hypertrophic potential, with elevated IGFBP-3, suppressed cortisol and a superior cellular environment. Further investigation, to further elucidate the time course of peak anabolic signalling in morning vs evening training conditions, are timely.

Concepts: Metabolism, Muscle, Physical exercise, Cortisol, Muscular system, Strength training, Weight training, Catabolism


The pollutant methylmercury accumulates within lean tissues of birds and other animals. Migrating birds catabolize substantial amounts of lean tissue during flight which may mobilize methylmercury and increase circulating levels of this neurotoxin. As a model for a migrating songbird, we fasted zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) that had been dosed with 0.0, 0.1, and 0.6 parts per million (ppm) dietary methylmercury and measured changes in blood total mercury concentrations (THg) in relation to reductions in lean mass. Birds lost 6-16% of their lean mass during the fast, and THg increased an average of 12% and 11% in the 0.1 and 0.6 ppm treatments, respectively. Trace amounts of THg in the 0.0 ppm control group also increased as a result of fasting, but remained extremely low. THg increased 0.4 ppm for each gram of lean mass catabolized in the higher dose birds. Our findings indicate that methylmercury is mobilized from lean tissues during protein catabolism and results in acute increases in circulating concentrations. This is a previously undocumented potential threat to wild migratory birds, which may experience greater surges in circulating methylmercury than demonstrated here as a result of their greater reductions in lean mass.

Concepts: Metabolism, Bird, Zebra Finch, Fasting, Anabolism, Parts-per notation, Catabolism, Bird migration


Lignin is an energy-dense, heterogeneous polymer comprised of phenylpropanoid monomers used by plants for structure, water transport, and defense, and it is the second most abundant biopolymer on Earth after cellulose. In production of fuels and chemicals from biomass, lignin is typically underused as a feedstock and burned for process heat because its inherent heterogeneity and recalcitrance make it difficult to selectively valorize. In nature, however, some organisms have evolved metabolic pathways that enable the utilization of lignin-derived aromatic molecules as carbon sources. Aromatic catabolism typically occurs via upper pathways that act as a “biological funnel” to convert heterogeneous substrates to central intermediates, such as protocatechuate or catechol. These intermediates undergo ring cleavage and are further converted via the β-ketoadipate pathway to central carbon metabolism. Here, we use a natural aromatic-catabolizing organism, Pseudomonas putida KT2440, to demonstrate that these aromatic metabolic pathways can be used to convert both aromatic model compounds and heterogeneous, lignin-enriched streams derived from pilot-scale biomass pretreatment into medium chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoates (mcl-PHAs). mcl-PHAs were then isolated from the cells and demonstrated to be similar in physicochemical properties to conventional carbohydrate-derived mcl-PHAs, which have applications as bioplastics. In a further demonstration of their utility, mcl-PHAs were catalytically converted to both chemical precursors and fuel-range hydrocarbons. Overall, this work demonstrates that the use of aromatic catabolic pathways enables an approach to valorize lignin by overcoming its inherent heterogeneity to produce fuels, chemicals, and materials.

Concepts: DNA, Metabolism, Enzyme, Organism, Demonstration, Metabolic pathway, Anabolism, Catabolism


Background The MetaCyc and KEGG projects have developed large metabolic pathway databases that are usedfor a variety of applications including genome analysis and metabolic engineering. We present acomparison of the compound, reaction, and pathway content of MetaCyc version 16.0 and a KEGGversion downloaded on Feb-27-2012 to increase understanding of their relative sizes, their degree ofoverlap, and their scope. To assess their overlap, we must know the correspondences between compounds,reactions, and pathways in MetaCyc, and those in KEGG. We devoted significant effort tocomputational and manual matching of these entities, and we evaluated the accuracy of the correspondences.Results KEGG contains 179 module pathways versus 1,846 base pathways in MetaCyc; KEGG contains 237map pathways versus 296 super pathways in MetaCyc. KEGG pathways contain 3.3 times as manyreactions on average as do MetaCyc pathways, and the databases employ different conceptualizationsof metabolic pathways. KEGG contains 8,692 reactions versus 10,262 for MetaCyc. 6,174 KEGGreactions are components of KEGG pathways versus 6,348 for MetaCyc. KEGG contains 16,586 compoundsversus 11,991 for MetaCyc. 6,912 KEGG compounds act as substrates in KEGG reactionsversus 8,891 for MetaCyc. MetaCyc contains a broader set of database attributes than does KEGG,such as relationships from a compound to enzymes that it regulates, identification of spontaneousreactions, and the expected taxonomic range of metabolic pathways. MetaCyc contains many pathwaysnot found in KEGG, from plants, fungi, metazoa, and actinobacteria; KEGG contains pathways not found in MetaCyc, for xenobiotic degradation, glycan metabolism, and metabolism of terpenoidsand polyketides. MetaCyc contains fewer unbalanced reactions, which facilitates metabolic modelingsuch as using flux-balance analysis. MetaCyc includes generic reactions that may be instantiatedcomputationally.Conclusions KEGG contains significantly more compounds than does MetaCyc, whereas MetaCyc contains significantlymore reactions and pathways than does KEGG, in particular KEGG modules are quiteincomplete. The number of reactions occurring in pathways in the two DBs are quite similar.

Concepts: Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Organism, Metabolic pathway, Glycolysis, Anabolism, Catabolism


Metabolism is important for cartilage and synovial joint function. Under adverse microenvironmental conditions, mammalian cells undergo a switch in cell metabolism from a resting regulatory state to a highly metabolically activate state to maintain energy homeostasis. This phenomenon also leads to an increase in metabolic intermediates for the biosynthesis of inflammatory and degradative proteins, which in turn activate key transcription factors and inflammatory signalling pathways involved in catabolic processes, and the persistent perpetuation of drivers of pathogenesis. In the past few years, several studies have demonstrated that metabolism has a key role in inflammatory joint diseases. In particular, metabolism is drastically altered in osteoarthritis (OA) and aberrant immunometabolism may be a key feature of many phenotypes of OA. This Review focuses on aberrant metabolism in the pathogenesis of OA, summarizing the current state of knowledge on the role of impaired metabolism in the cells of the osteoarthritic joint. We also highlight areas for future research, such as the potential to target metabolic pathways and mediators therapeutically.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Organism, Metabolic pathway, Catabolism