The concentrations of glucose and lactate in the blood and of liver glycogen, and the phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase activity in liver and kidney of term and preterm newborn rats, were studied during the first 6 h post partum. Rates of lactate turnover and gluconeogenesis in vivo from [U-14C]lactate at 3 h and 6 h post partum were also quantified. The development of the prolonged postnatal hypoglycaemia observed after birth in the premature newborn rat is associated with lower rates of glucose production through glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis; liver glycogenolysis was the main contributing factor to the glucose available during the neonatal period studied in both groups. Delayed induction of liver phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase activity was observed in premature newborn rats. Renal phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase activity increased 72% from birth in preterm newborns, but only a 25% increase was found in term newborns during the same experimental period. The gluconeogenesis in vivo from [U-14C]lactate paralleled the appearance of cytosolic phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase activity in the liver of both groups of newborns. Blood lactate concentrations remained higher in preterm than in term newborns. The postnatal utilization of lactate via the gluconeogenic pathway in either group of newborns was always less than 20% of the total lactate used. The results presented are discussed in relation to the development of postnatal hypoglycaemia and gluconeogenesis in the premature newborn rat.

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