1. The effects of various treatments to alter either plasma prolactin (bromocryptine administration or removal of litter) or the metabolic activity of the mammary gland (unilateral or complete teat sealing) on the disposal of oral [14C]lipid between 14CO2 production and [14C]lipid accumulation in tissues of lactating rats were studied. In addition, the rates of lipogenesis in vivo were measured in mammary gland, brown and white adipose tissue and liver. 2. Bromocryptine administration lowered plasma prolactin, but did not alter [14C]lipid accumulation in mammary gland or in white and brown adipose tissue. 3. In contrast, complete sealing of teats results in no change in plasma prolactin, but a 90% decrease in [14C]lipid accumulation in mammary gland and a 4-fold increase in white and brown adipose tissue. The rate of lipogenesis in mammary gland was decreased by 95%, but there was no change in the rate in white and brown adipose tissue. Unilateral sealing of teats resulted in a decrease in [14C]lipid accumulation in white adipose tissue. 4. Removal of the litter for 24 h (low prolactin) produced a similar pattern to complete teat sealing, except that there was a 6-fold increase in lipogenesis in white adipose tissue. Re-suckling for 5 h increased plasma prolactin, but did not alter the response seen in litter-removed lactating rats. 5. Changes in lipoprotein lipase activity and in plasma insulin paralleled the reciprocal changes in [14C]lipid accumulation in white and brown adipose tissue and in mammary gland. 6. It is concluded that the plasma insulin is more important than prolactin in regulating lipid deposition in adipose tissue during lactation, and that any effects of prolactin must be indirect.

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