‘Expressed’ and ‘total’ activities of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMG-CoA reductase) were measured in freeze-clamped samples of mammary glands from lactating rats at intervals throughout the 24 h light/dark cycle. ‘Expressed’ activities were measured in microsomal fractions isolated and assayed in the presence of 100 mM-KF. ‘Total’ activities were determined in microsomal preparations from the same homogenates but washed free of KF and incubated with exogenously added sheep liver phosphoprotein phosphatase before assay. Both ‘expressed’ and ‘total’ activities of HMG-CoA reductase underwent a diurnal cycle, which had a major peak 6 h into the light phase and a nadir 15 h later, i.e. 9 h into the dark period. Both activities showed a secondary peak of activity (around 68% of the maximum activity) at the time of changeover from dark to light, with a trough in the value of the ‘expressed’ activity that was close to the nadir value. ‘Expressed’ activity was lower than ‘total’ at all time points, indicating the presence of enzyme molecules inactivated by covalent phosphorylation. Nevertheless the ‘expressed’/‘total’ activity ratio was comparatively constant and varied only between 43% and 75%. Immunotitration of enzyme activity, with antiserum raised in sheep against purified rat liver HMG-CoA reductase, confirmed the presence of both active and inactive forms of the enzyme and indicated that at the peak and nadir the variation in ‘expressed’ HMG-CoA reductase activity resulted from changes in the total number of enzyme molecules rather than from covalent modification. The sample obtained after 3 h of the light phase exhibited an anomalously low ‘total’ HMG-CoA reductase activity, which could be increased when Cl- replaced F- in the homogenization medium. The result suggests that at that time the activity of the enzyme could be regulated by mechanisms other than covalent phosphorylation or degradation.

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