An improved non-perfusion method for the preparation of cultured foetal-rat hepatocytes is described. Digestion of the liver with collagenase and deoxyribonuclease I gave yields of 40 × 10(6) hepatocytes/g of liver. The plating efficiency of hepatocytes in medium with 10 microM-cortisol was 50%. Cell morphology and metabolism were maintained through 3 days of monolayer culture, with minimal contamination by haematopoietic cells or fibroblasts. The cultured cells bound and degraded 125I-insulin in a time- and dose-dependent manner. The estimated ED50 for competitive binding at 37 degrees C was 1.1 nM. Curvilinear Scatchard plots were observed, with estimates of 16 500 high-affinity sites (Kd = 813 pM) and 53 000 low-affinity sites (Kd = 23 nM) per cell. The cultured cells demonstrated a glycogenic response to insulin, with an estimated ED50 of 120 pM. The degree of glycogenic response to insulin varied with time in culture: 500% above basal on day 1, 200% on day 2, and only 150% on day 3. Cultured foetal cells also exhibited a time-dependent uptake of 2-aminoisobutyric acid, which, in contrast with previous reports with adult cells, was not stimulated by the presence of 10 nM-insulin. Cultured foetal hepatocytes may provide an interesting model with which to study the relationship between insulin-receptor binding and insulin action.

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