Large amounts of glycogen accumulate in rat skeletal muscle fibers during the late fetal stages and are mobilized in the first postnatal days. This glycogen depletion is relatively slow in the immature leg muscles, in which extensive deposits are still found 24 hr after birth and, to some extent, persist until the 3rd day. In the more differentiated psoas muscle and especially in the diaphragm, the glycogen stores are completely mobilized already during the early hours. Section of the sciatic nerve 3 days before birth or within the first 2 hr after delivery does not affect glycogen depletion in the leg muscles. Neonatal glycogenolysis in rat muscle fibers takes place largely by segregation and digestion of glycogen particles in autophagic vacuoles. These vacuoles: (a) are not seen in fetal muscle fibers or at later postnatal stages, but appear concomitantly with the process of glycogen depletion and disappear shortly afterwards; (b) are prematurely formed in skeletal muscles of fetuses at term treated with glucagon; (c) contain almost exclusively glycogen particles and no other recognizable cell constituents; (d) have a double or, more often, single limiting membrane and originate apparently from flattened sacs sequestering glycogen masses; (e) are generally found to contain reaction product in preparations incubated from demonstration of acid phosphatase activity. The findings emphasize the role of the lysosomal system in the physiological process of postnatal glycogen mobilization and appear relevant in the interpretation of type II glycogen storage disease.

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