The fact that colchicines inhibits hepatic secretion of very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles has been interpreted to mean that microtubules are involved in hepatic VLDL secretion. To further define this relationship, we have attempted to see if changes in hepatic VLDL secretion are associated with changes in hepatocyte microtubule or tubulin content. Accordingly, hepatic secretion of VLDL was increased in rats, and the hepatocyte content of both microtubules (using quantitative morphometric methods) and tubulin (using a time-decay colchicine binding assay) was determined. In acute experiments, VLDL secretion was increased by perfusion of isolated rat livers for 2 h with varying concentrations of free fatty acids (FFA). Results indicate that hepatic VLDL triglyceride (TG) secretion at perfusate FFA levels of 0.7 μEq/ml is threefold greater (P < 0.01) than when livers are perfused without added FFA. However, no differences are observed in the content of microtubules in these livers: specifically, microtubules occupy 0.029 percent of hepatocyte cytoplasm in livers perfused without FFA and 0.030 percent of cytoplasm in livers perfused with FFA. In chronic experiments, rats were fed for 1 wk with either standard rat chow or a hyperlipidemic (sucrose/lard) diet. With the experimental diet, plasma triglyceride levels increase threefold over controls, and liver VLDL-TG production, as determined by [(3)H]glycerol turnover studies, is 55 percent greater (P < 0.01) than controls. However, microtubules occupy 0.027 percent of the cytoplasm of hepatocyte cytoplasm whether rats are on standard or hyperlipidemic diets. Furthermore, the tubulin content of isolated hepatocytes does change, and represents 1 percent of hepatocyte soluble protein, irrespective of diet. These results suggest that increases in hepatic VLDL secretion can occur without any demonstrable change in hepatocyte assembled microtubule or tubulin content, and raise questions as to the role played by microtubules in hepatic VLDL secretion.

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