Effect of Insulin on Protein Synthesis

  1. Keith L Manchester, M.A., Ph.D
  1. Department of Biochemistry, University of the West Indies Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica, W. I

Abstract

The mechanism by which insulin controls protein metabolism is not fully understood. Insulin stimulates protein synthesis; it also enhances transport of some amino acids, but the latter action does not appear to be sufficient explanation of the increase in synthesis. The various actions seem to be independent of effects on glucose metabolism. In diabetic muscle there are fewer than normal polysomes, and insulin rapidly enhances attachment of monomers to messenger-RNA. Insulin also increases the effectiveness of cell sap in catalyzing protein synthesis by ribosomal systems. The way in which the hormone may affect either initiation or peptide synthesis is not known.

Experiments are reported bearing on whether availability of amino acids could be a mechanism by which effects of insulin are mediated. Activity of liver and muscle soluble fractions declines on fasting and, for the latter tissue, possibly also on a low protein diet. Sap from fasting animals allows a much smaller response of isolated ribosomes to added amino acids. Availability of glutamate in amino acid mixtures may be of special importance. However, insulin can influence the activity of the sap fraction of diaphragm muscle during incubation without the presence of amino acids in the medium. Understanding of what mechanisms are involved will depend on resolution of the critical sap factors.

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