The analogue of cytidine, cytosine arabinoside (Ara-C), elicited a significant increase in the level of glutamine synthetase (GS) in embryonic chick neural retina in the absence of the steroid inducer of the enzyme. The increase was due to de novo synthesis of GS and was mediated by RNA which accumulated in the presence of the effective concentration of Ara-C. Accumulation of GS did not result from the inhibition of DNA synthesis for which Ara-C is best known. This new effect of Ara-C involves differential suppression of macromolecular synthesis in this system: the concentration of Ara-C which caused maximum GS accumulation suppressed overall protein and RNA syntheses 65–75% without inhibiting the transcription and translation of templates essential for GS synthesis. Withdrawal of Ara-C resulted in restoration of RNA synthesis and cessation of GS accumulation, even though preformed templates for the enzyme were present; however, if all RNA synthesis was arrested with actinomycin D at the time of Ara-C withdrawal, GS continued to accumulate. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that Ara-C differentially affects the activity of structural and regulatory genes involved in the regulation of GS levels in the retina: Ara-C allows transcription of the enzyme-specific templates, but reversibly inhibits the expression of regulatory genes which limit the accumulation of GS.

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