Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Animal Science

First Advisor

Dr. Kristine L. Urschel


Skeletal muscle protein synthesis is regulated by the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway. The first objective was to optimize the methodological procedures for assessing mTOR signaling in horses. The response of mTOR signaling (P-Akt Ser473, P-S6K1 Thr389, P-rpS6 Ser235/26 & 240/244, and P-4EBP1 Thr37/46 by Western blotting techniques) to meal consumption was determined at three gluteal muscle biopsy depths (6, 8, and 10 cm), and the repeatability of the contralateral side at 8 cm during 5 days of repeated biopsies. There was no effect (P > 0.05) of sampling side or biopsy depth on mTOR signaling in mature horses. During repeated biopsies there was an increase (P < 0.05) in downstream (P-S6K1 Thr389, P-rpS6 Ser235/236 & 240/244 and P-4EBP1 Thr389) mTOR signaling in response to feeding. The second objective was to characterize alterations in mTOR signaling throughout the equid lifespan. Adolescent horses (yearlings and two year olds) studied in the postprandial had a lowered (P < 0.05) activation of downstream mTOR signaling with aging. There was a lower (P < 0.05) abundance of P-S6K1 Thr389 in aged horses (23.5 years old) than in mature horses (11 years old) during the post-absorptive state. The final objective was to assess mTOR signaling during acute and chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation occurred during 5 days of repeated biopsies, and chronic inflammation is characteristic of the aged. During acute inflammation, characterized by increased muscle mRNA expression of inflammatory cytokines, there was an increase (P < 0.05) in downstream mTOR signaling. Chronic inflammation resulted in a decrease (P < 0.05) in the abundance of P-S6K1 Thr389. Phenylbutazone was administered to reduce (P < 0.05) acute and chronic inflammation in muscle. Phenylbutazone administration during acute inflammation reduced (P < 0.05) the activation of downstream mTOR signaling and trended to increase (P = 0.09) P-S6K1 Thr389 abundance during chronic inflammation. Whole-body protein synthesis determined using isotope infusion techniques increased (P < 0.05) when chronic inflammation was reduced due to phenylbutazone administration. This research provides new standards for muscle biopsy collection when examining mTOR signaling, and insight into management and feeding practices for adolescent and aging horses.