The expression of hepatic cytosolic malic enzyme in the developing rat has been studied by molecular-biological techniques. Malic enzyme mRNA was barely detectable throughout the neonatal period, but increased to significant levels immediately before weaning. Northern-blot analysis demonstrated that the two major malic enzyme mRNA species displayed non-co-ordinate control during development, with the 2.0 kb form accumulating to a greater extent than the 3.1 kb form. A novel 1.6 kb mRNA species was found to predominate in foetal samples. Tri-iodothyronine treatment of neonatal rats caused premature induction of all three malic enzyme mRNA species. Dietary studies also showed precocious induction of the mRNA with diets high in carbohydrate, but not with those high in fat.

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