The basal hepatocyte phenotype is conferred by the expression of liver-specific genes. In the adult liver, the basal hepatocyte phenotype is further modified by transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of genes which result in the appearance of specific proteins in selected hepatocytes. One of these proteins is the erythroid/brain or GLUT-1 glucose transporter. The GLUT-1 protein is detected in the plasma membrane of only one or two hepatocytes located at the end of the liver cell plate, contiguous to the hepatic venule. The objective of this study was to define the molecular mechanisms responsible for the restricted expression of the GLUT-1 protein in rat liver. Hepatocytes were isolated from either the proximal (“periportal”) or the distal (“perivenular”) half of the liver cell plate. The GLUT-1 mRNA as well as the GLUT-1 protein content and intracellular distribution were defined after subcellular fractionation of each hepatocyte population. In addition, the location of the GLUT-1 protein in liver tissue was determined by confocal microscopy. We propose that the GLUT-1 gene is transcribed and the mRNA is translated by both “periportal” and “perivenular” hepatocytes. However, insertion of the GLUT-1 protein into the plasma membrane occurs only in the last two hepatocytes contiguous to the hepatic venule. In other hepatocytes, the protein remains in a different cellular compartment characterized here as a “low density microsomal” fraction.
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