The activities of several hepatic enzymes are preferentially zonated to the periportal or perivenous cells of the liver acinus. Employing dual-digitonin-pulse perfusion of rat liver in the study of acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), we have identified a heretofore unrecognized feature of hepatic zonation, namely an intrahepatic gradient in enzyme specific activity. ACC activity shows a relative periportal localization in normally feeding rats, even when corrected for ACC protein mass. In contrast with results previously reported by us [Evans, Quistorff & Witters (1989) Biochem. J. 259, 821-829], the total mass of both hepatic ACC isoenzymes was not found to differ between the two hepatic zones in the present study. In perfusion eluates from fed animals, periportal ACC displays enhanced citrate reactivity and two kinetic components of acetyl-CoA reactivity; the largest periportal/perivenous gradient (5-fold) is accounted for by a species with a lower Km for acetyl-CoA. The zonal gradient in ACC maximal velocity, measured in eluates from fed rats, does not persist after ACC purification, although the isolated periportal enzyme, like dephosphorylated ACC, has a lower activation constant for citrate. Total ACC protein phosphatase activity is higher in periportal eluates, but no differences in the activities of either a 5′-AMP-activated ACC kinase or the cyclic-AMP-dependent protein kinase are noted between the hepatic zones. The induction of total hepatic ACC mass and specific activity, on fasting/refeeding with a high-carbohydrate diet, abolishes the periportal/perivenous activity gradient, largely owing to a selective activation of perivenous enzyme. Nutritional induction is also accompanied by a marked alteration in ACC acetyl-CoA kinetics and abolition of the gradient in total ACC phosphatase. These studies indicate that hepatic enzyme zonation, which is often attributed to differential expression of enzyme protein, may result from zonal variations in enzyme specific activity, owing to differences in allosteric regulation and/or covalent modification.

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