Amino Acids

, 41:1185

Leucine nutrition in animals and humans: mTOR signaling and beyond

  • Fengna Li
  • Yulong Yin
  • Bie Tan
  • Xiangfeng Kong
  • Guoyao Wu
Review Article


Macronutrients, such as protein or amino acid, not only supply calories but some components may also play as signaling molecules to affect feeding behavior, energy balance, and fuel efficiency. Leucine, a branched-chain amino acid is a good example. After structural roles are satisfied, the ability of leucine to function as signal and oxidative substrate is based on a sufficient intracellular concentration. Therefore, leucine level must be sufficiently high to play the signaling and metabolic roles. Leucine is not only a substrate for protein synthesis of skeletal muscle, but also plays more roles beyond that. Leucine activates signaling factor of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) to promote protein synthesis in skeletal muscle and in adipose tissue. It is also a major regulator of the mTOR sensitive response of food intake to high protein diet. Meanwhile, leucine regulates blood glucose level by promoting gluconeogenesis and aids in the retention of lean mass in a hypocaloric state. It is beneficial to animal nutrition and clinical application and extrapolation to humans.


Leucine nutrition mTOR signaling 



Amino acid


Agouti-related protein


AMP-activated protein kinase


Branched-chain amino acid


Mitochondrial branched-chain aminotransferase


Body weight


Eukaryotic initiation factor 4E binding protein 1


Mammalian target of rapamycin


mTOR complex 1


Neuropeptide Y


Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase


Ribosomal protein S6 kinase 1


Uncoupling protein 3


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fengna Li
    • 1
  • Yulong Yin
    • 1
  • Bie Tan
    • 1
  • Xiangfeng Kong
    • 1
  • Guoyao Wu
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Agro-ecological Processes in Subtropical Region, Institute of Subtropical AgricultureChinese Academy of SciencesHunanChina
  2. 2.Department of Animal ScienceTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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