Periportal and perivenous hepatocytes were isolated from rats subjected to different treatments that induce (starvation, cold exposure) or depress (refeeding after starvation) hepatic fatty acid oxidation. These experiments were designed to determine factors that may be involved in creating and maintaining the asymmetrical distribution of this metabolic pathway in the acinus of the liver. The uneven distribution of mitochondrial [14C]-palmitate oxidation within the acinus (i) was very flexible and changed markedly with the physiological status of the animal (periportal/perivenous ratio: 1.5, 2.0, 1.0 and 0.4 for fed, starved, refed and cold-exposed animals respectively), (ii) coincided with a similar zonation of carnitine palmitoyltransferase I activity in fed as well as in cold-exposed animals, (iii) was paralleled by a comparable zonation of mitochondrial 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoA synthase activity in starved animals, and (iv) was not determined by zonal differences in any of the following parameters: sensitivity of carnitine palmitoyltransferase I to malonyl-CoA, intracellular concentration of malonyl-CoA, fatty acid synthesizing capacity, acetyl-CoA carboxylase activity, fatty acid synthase activity or relative content of the two hepatic acetyl-CoA carboxylase isoforms. Unlike mitochondrial oxidation, peroxisomal [14C]palmitate oxidation was always zonated towards the perivenous zone of the liver irrespective of the physiological status of the animal. The data presented show that changes in the acinar distribution of mitochondrial long-chain fatty acid oxidation involve specific long-term mechanisms under different physiological conditions.

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