The pre- and post-natal ontogeny of Sprague–Dawley rat liver aldehyde dehydrogenase [aldehyde–NAD(P)+ oxidoreductase, EC] is described. At no time in its ontogenetic development does normal liver aldehyde dehydrogenase exhibit any of the characteristics of a series of unique aldehyde dehydrogenases that can be isolated from 2-acetamidofluorene-induced rat hepatomas. Enzyme activity is first detectable in 15-day foetal liver and gradually increases throughout pre- and post-natal development until adult activities are attained by day 49 after birth. Electrophoretically, normal aldehyde dehydrogenase, throughout its ontogeny, exists as the same single isoenzyme found in normal adult liver. Isoelectric points for two normal liver isoenzymes demonstrable by isoelectric focusing are pH5.9 and 6.0. The immunochemical properties of aldehyde dehydrogenase during its ontogeny are identical with those of normal adult liver aldehyde dehydrogenase when tested against anti-(hepatoma aldehyde dehydrogenase) serum in Ouchterlony double-diffusion tests. The results indicate that the hepatoma-specific aldehyde dehydrogenases are not the result of the de-repression of genes normally repressed in adult rat liver or in some other adult tissue.

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