‘Initial’ and ‘total’ activities of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMG-CoA reductase) were measured in cold-clamped samples of liver from rats at 2h intervals throughout the 24h light/dark cycle. Initial activities were obtained in microsomes (microsomal fractions) isolated and assayed in the presence of 100mM-KF, whereas ‘total’ activities were measured in microsomes prepared from the same homogenates but washed free of KF and incubated with exogenous partially purified rat liver protein phosphatase. The initial/total-activity ratio for HMG-CoA reductase underwent a diurnal cycle, which had a nadir 4h into the light phase (when initial activity was 28% of total activity) and a peak 12h later, i.e. 4h into the dark phase (when initial activity was 80% of total activity). These low and high points of the cycle were separated by gradual steady changes in the ratio. The characteristics of this diurnal cycle were different from those of the cycle observed for total activity, which had a plateau of high activity between 2 and 10h into the dark cycle preceded and succeeded by a very rapid increase and decrease, respectively, in the total activity of HMG-CoA reductase. The combination of the two cycles resulted in the dampening of the resultant cycle for the initial or effective activity of HMG-CoA reductase, such that the changes in initial activity around the beginning and and end of the dark phase were more gradual than would otherwise have been the case if the initial/total-activity ratio for HMG-CoA reductase were constant throughout the diurnal cycle. The physiological implications of the observed diurnal variation in the fraction of hepatic HMG-CoA reductase in the active form are discussed.

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