1. The mechanism that underlies the induction of glycogen synthesis in the foetal rat liver by glucocorticoids was reinvestigated in conditions where the accumulation of glycogen is either precociously induced with dexamethasone or inhibited by steroid deprivation. It appears that glucocorticoids act as the physiological trigger for glycogen synthesis by inducing both glycogen synthase (a known effect) and its activating enzyme, glycogen synthase phosphatase. 2. The activity of glycogen synthase phosphatase in adult liver stems from the interaction of two protein components [Doperé, Vanstapel & Stalmans (1980) Eur. J. Biochem. 104, 137–146]. Two independent experimental approaches indicate that the cytosolic ‘S-component’ is already well developed in the foetal liver before the onset of glycogen synthesis. The manifold glucocorticoid-dependent increase in synthase phosphatase activity during late gestation must be attributed to the specific development of the glycogen-bound ‘G-component’.

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