Tumour associated proteolysis and protein metabolism
The effect of cancer cachexia on protein metabolism has been studied in mice transplanted with the MAC16 adenocarcinoma. The progressive cachexia induced by the MAC16 tumour was characterised by a reduction in carcass nitrogen between 16-30% weight loss and a reciprocal increase in tumour nitrogen content. Carcass nitrogen loss was accompanied by a concomitant decrease in gastrocnemius muscle weight and nitrogen content and also by a decrease in liver nitrogen content. The loss of gastrocnemius muscle throughout the progression of cachexia was attributable to a 60% decrease in the rate of protein synthesis and a 240% increase in the rate of protein degradation. The loss of skeletal muscle protein that may be mediated by an increased rate of protein degradation has been correlated with a circulatory catabolic factor present only in cachectic tumour-bearing animals, that degrades host muscle in vitro. The proteolysis-inducing factor was found to be heat stable, not a serine protease and was inhibited by indomethacin and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in a dose-related manner. The proteolytic factor induced prostaglandin E2 formation in the gastrocnemius muscle of non tumour-bearing animals and this effect was inhibited by indomethacin and EPA. In vivo studies show EPA (2.0g/kg-1 by gavage) to effectively reverse the decrease in body weight in animals bearing the MAC16 tumour with a concomitant reduction in tumour growth. Muscle from animals treated with EPA showed a decrease (60%) in protein degradation without an effect on protein synthesis. The action of the factor was largely mimicked by triarachidonin and trilinoleia. The increased serum levels of arachidonic acid in cachectic tumour-bearing animals may thus be responsible for increased protein degradation through prostanoid metabolism.