Primary monolayer hepatocyte cultures derived from non-mated, pregnant and lactating sheep were used to investigate the interactions between the effects of growth hormone and insulin on (i) the partitioning of fatty acid metabolism between oxidation and esterification, and (ii) the rate of gluconeogenesis. In hepatocytes from lactating sheep the rates of gluconeogenesis, ketogenesis and very-low-density lipoprotein secretion were approx. 2-fold higher than in cells from non-mated or pregnant animals. There was no apparent difference in the rates of fatty acid uptake between the three groups of sheep cells. Growth hormone stimulated gluconeogenesis only in hepatocytes from non-mated sheep. It has no effect on the flux of fatty acid towards ketone body formation. Growth hormone inhibited intracellular accumulation of acylglycerol from exogenous fatty acid. Insulin alone had no such effect, but it blunted the effect of growth hormone when the two hormones were present together. The data suggest that major differences may exist between ruminants and non-ruminants in the response of liver metabolism both to lactation per se and to the effects of growth hormone and insulin.

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