The in vivo rates of protein synthesis were assessed in tumor tissue, skeletal muscle, and whole body of rats bearing the Walker 256 carcinosarcoma. Estimates of protein synthesis in the nontumorous tissues were compared to tumor-free controls. Changes in size of the whole animal and tumor (i.e., growth) were measured, and fractional rates of growth, synthesis, and breakdown were estimated. Muscle protein synthesis and whole-body growth were significantly reduced in rats bearing larger tumors, and both were negatively correlated with tumor size (r = -0.723 and -0.825, respectively; P < 0.01). Furthermore, whole-body and muscle protein synthesis were positively correlated with body growth (r = 0.380 and 0.563, respectively; P < 0.05). Tumor growth followed first-order kinetics between days 7 and 13 following implantation, with a mean rate constant of 34.3%/day for the larger tumors and 27.7%/day for the small tumors. The difference in tumor growth became statistically significant over the final 3 days of tumor volume measurements. Fractional protein synthesis was significantly lower in the larger compared to the smaller tumors (48.6 versus 84.8%/day; P < 0.05) as measured on day 14. This finding indicates a lower protein breakdown rate for the larger tumors (14.3 versus 59.0%/day; P < 0.01) and suggests that the process of protein breakdown could play a significant role in determining tumor size, leading support to the theory of tumors acting as nitrogen traps.

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Supported in part by grants CA09459 and CA35352 awarded by the National Cancer Institute, GM 24206 awarded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and grants from Travenol Laboratories.

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