Branched-chain amino acids in disease

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Science  08 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6427, pp. 582-583
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav0558

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Human proteins are assembled from 20 amino acids, nine of which are considered “essential” because they cannot be synthesized from other metabolites in the human body. Among these are the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine (Leu), isoleucine (Ile), and valine (Val), so named because of their branched rather than linear aliphatic side chains. The food sources most enriched in BCAAs are meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs. BCAAs have been studied for decades as agents for enhancing muscle protein synthesis and mass during exercise training, in syndromes of cachexia (muscle wasting), and in aging. In this context, Leu is known to activate the anabolic signaling molecule mTORC1 (mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1), as well as other factors involved in protein synthesis.