In the rat kidney, NaK-ATPase activity increased between days 19 and 20 of gestation (+50%) and between 1 and 24 h after birth (+20%), requiring an increased energy supply. In order to determine whether mitochondrial changes were involved, renal mitochondrial development was investigated from day 19 of gestation to 1 day after birth. Slot-blot analyses of mitochondrial-DNA/nuclear-DNA ratio and determination of citrate synthase activity showed a doubling in the mitochondrial pool between days 19 and 20 of gestation. In isolated mitochondria, oxygen consumption remained unchanged between days 19 and 20 of gestation, and then it was enhanced between days 20 and 21 of gestation (+70%) and between 1 and 24 h after birth (+50%). We also focused on one of the respiratory-chain complexes, ATP synthase, and measured its activity and content during the perinatal period. We demonstrated increases in both activity and content of ATP synthase between days 20 and 21 of gestation and between 1 and 24 h after birth, thus suggesting that changes in ATP synthase activity are ascribed to an increase in the mitochondrial density of ATP synthase complexes. Moreover, the mitochondrial ATP/ADP ratio only increased between 1 and 24 h (+90%), indicating a critical step in the renal respiratory-chain maturation at that time. We therefore conclude that the postnatal enhancement of renal mitochondrial oxidative capacity might depend on protein synthesis de novo and on changes in the adenine nucleotide concentrations.

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