Alkaline RNAase (ribonuclease) and RNAase inhibitor were assayed to determine the potential role of the degradative process in regulating the amount of RNA in the mammary gland and mammary tumour. Very little free alkaline RNAase activity was found in the cytosol fraction of the mammary gland of virgin, pregnant, lactating or involuting Fischer rats. However, addition of p-chloromercuribenzoate to the assay medium revealed latent RNAase which, when expressed on a DNA basis, decreased during pregnancy and lactation. The cytosol latent RNAase is stable in 0.125 M-H2SO4. The non-cytosol RNAase activity also decreased during pregnancy and lactation. Addition of Triton X-100 produced slightly higher activity at all stages tested. The inhibitor activity in rat mammary gland was very low before pregnancy, increased gradually during pregnancy and more dramatically at parturition, continued to increase throughout lactation and returned to resting-gland values by the sixth day of involution. The increase during pregnancy may be due to the increased cellularity of the gland, whereas the gain during lactation was more than could be accounted for by increases in cell number. The R3230AC transplantable mammary tumour resembles the normal gland in early lactation with respect to both its cytosol and non-cytosol alkaline RNAase activities and its moderately high content of RNAase inhibitor. The relatively high inhibitor and low RNAase activities in both the gland of the lactating rat and in the tumour are of potential significance in maintaining high amounts of RNA and increased rates of protein synthesis in these tissues.

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