A system of preparation of rat hepatocytes with extended viability has been developed to study the role of hormones and other plasma components upon secretory protein synthesis. Hepatocytes maintained in minimal essential medium reduced the levels of all amino acids in the medium except the slowly catabolized amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which steadily increase as the result of catabolism of liver protein. Although the liver cells catabolize 10-15% of their own protein during a 20-h incubation, the cells continue to secrete protein in a linear fashion throughout the period. The effects of insulin, cortisol, and epinephrine on general protein synthesis, and specifically on fibrinogen and albumin synthesis, have been tested on cells from both normal rats and adrenalectomized rats. Cells from normal animals show preinduction of tyrosine amino transferase (TAT), having at the time of isolation a high level of enzyme which shows only an increase of approximately 60% upon incubation with cortisol. In contrast, cells from adrenalectomized animals initially have a low level of enzyme which increases fourfold over a period of 9 h. The effects of both epinephrine and cortisol on protein synthesis are also much larger in cells from adrenalectomized animals. After a delay of several hours, cortisol increases fibrinogen synthesis sharply, so that at the end of the 20-h incubation, cells treated with hormone have secreted nearly 2.5 times as much fibrinogen as control cells. The effect is specific; cortisol stimulates neither albumin secretion nor intracellular protein synthesis. The combination of cortisol and epinephrine strongly depresses albumin synthesis in both types of cells. Insulin enhances albumin and general protein synthesis but has little effect on fibrinogen synthesis.

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