Birds primarily rely on fat for energy during fasting and to fuel energetically demanding activities. Proteins are catabolized supplemental to fat, the function of which in birds remains poorly understood. It has been proposed that birds may increase the catabolism of body protein under dehydrating conditions as a means to maintain water balance because catabolism of wet protein yields more total metabolic and bound water (0.155 g H2O kJ-1) than wet lipids (0.029 g H2O kJ-1). On the other hand, protein sparing should be important to maintain function of muscles and organs. We used quantitative magnetic resonance body composition analysis and hygrometry to investigate the effect of water restriction on fat and lean mass catabolism during short-term fasting at rest and in response to a metabolic challenge (4 h shivering) in house sparrows (Passer domesticus). Water loss at rest and during shivering was compared to water gains from the catabolism of tissue. At rest, water restricted birds had significantly greater lean mass loss, higher plasma uric acid concentration and plasma osmolality than control birds. Endogenous water gains from lean mass catabolism offset losses over the resting period. Water restriction had no effect on lean mass catabolism during shivering, as water gains from fat oxidation appeared sufficient to maintain water balance. These data provide direct evidence supporting the hypothesis that water stress can increase protein catabolism at rest, possibly as a metabolic strategy to offset high rates of evaporative water loss.
- Protein Catabolism
- metabolic water
- magnetic resonance body composition analysis
- water balance
- Copyright © 2010, American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology