Induction of the five urea-cycle enzymes by glucagon in cultured foetal rat hepatocytes


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Abstract. Foetal hepatocytes obtained from rats at different stages were cultured in order to investigate the inducibility of the five urea-cycle enzymes by glucagon and dibutyryl cyclic AMP (Bt2cAMP). When 18.5-day-old hepatocytes were cultured for 3 days with 10–7M glucagon, the activities of carbamoyl phosphate synthetase (CPS), argininosuccinase (ASL) and arginase were increased by 1.4-, 1.8- and 1.9-fold, respectively, as compared to controls. These effects were mimicked by 10–4M Bt2cAMP, but the activities of ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) and argininosuccinate synthetase (ASS) were never changed by the addition of these compounds. Hepatocytes cultured at earlier stages were not responsive to glucagon unless dexamethasone was added simultaneously, suggesting that this steroid might induce some steps necessary for glucagon action. Bt2cAMP was effective as early as day 16.5 without requiring the presence of steroids. In addition, the effect of the cyclic nucleotide appeared additive or synergistic with that of dexamethasone. The simultaneous addition of actinomycin D did not affect the glucagon-induced increase in enzyme levels, thus suggesting a post-transcriptional effect of the hormone on the foetal enzyme activities. Insulin itself did not have any effect on the basal level of the enzyme activities and had only a moderate inhibitory effect on glucagon-induced ASL activity. This slight effect of insulin is in contrast with the marked inhibitory effect of dexamethasone on this enzyme activity that we described previously