The effects of 5-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) on the postnatal differentiation of rat submandibular gland and on the isoproterenol-induced changes of differentiation were studied. The rats were injected with BrdU for three consecutive days, beginning at two days of age. The total dose of BrdU was 0.9 mg/g body weight. BrdU caused a severe retardation of growth up to 15 days of age. A rapid growth of the animals between 15 and 22 days indicated a recovery from the effect of BrdU. The growth of the submandibular gland was retarded similarly with a corresponding decrease in DNA, RNA and protein content. Incorporation of tritiated thymidine into the submandibular gland was not altered in the BrdU-treated animals at one and three days after the last injection of the analog. At days 15 and 22 the rate of thymidine incorporation was greater in the submandibular gland of BrdU-treated rats as compared to littermate controls. Isoproterenol stimulated thymidine incorporation into the submandibular glands of two-week-old rats. This stimulation was not observed in rats which received BrdU at age 7–9 days, prior to the administration of isoproterenol.

Electron microscopic observations, including a quantitative analysis of the frequency distribution of the various cell types in the terminal tubules and developing acini, indicated a retardation of acinar cell differentiation in the glands of BrdU-treated rats. In addition, there was an increase in the number and size of the secretory granules in the terminal tubule cells. BrdU treatment, however, caused no obvious pathologic alterations in the submandibular gland. Administration of isoproterenol for five days, beginning at five days of age, caused an apparent acceleration of the differentiation of acinar cells. In the glands of isoproterenol-treated rats the acinar cells were enlarged and were filled with homogenous secretory granules. Pretreatment with BrdU partially inhibited the effects of isoproterenol on differentiation and hypertrophy of the submandibular gland. With the given dose of BrdU, approximately 5% of thymine was replaced by bromouracil in the DNA of the submandibular gland. Such a replacement would be consistent with a direct effect of BrdU on the cytodifferentiation in the submandibular gland. However, because of the severe retardation of growth of the BrdU-treated rats, indirect effects can not be excluded.