Increased skeletal muscle breakdown and negative nitrogen balance are features of sepsis that may be mediated by cytokines. The effects of tumour necrosis factor (TNF) on protein metabolism were studied. When administered to anaesthetized dogs (0·57 × 105 units per kg body‐weight over 6h), TNF caused urinary nitrogen excretion to increase (mean(s.e.m.) 165(15) mg kg−1 for dogs that received TNF versus 113(8) mg kg−1 for control animals, P <0·01). Amino acid nitrogen release from the hindlimbs showed no change over the study period, indicating that the additional urinary nitrogen was not derived from peripheral protein stores. In a second study the same dose of TNF or saline was infused after the intestine had been removed. The mean(s.e.m.) urinary nitrogen excrtion in control dogs that had undergone enterectomy (101(7) mg kg1) was similar to that of intact animals, and addition of TNF did not significantly increase nitrogen excretion (86(18) mg kg−1). The results suggest that nitrogen excreted in the urine during administration of TNF is derived, at least initially, from the intestinal tract.
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