A system using hepatocyte suspensions in vitro was developed for studying the synthesis of albumin, fibrinogen and transferrin. Conditions for optimum survival of the hepatocyte and for synthesis of these plasma proteins were defined for this system. These conditions included the use of horse serum (17.5 percent, v/v, heat-inactivated), an enriched medium (Waymouth's MB 752/1), an O2 tension of between 18.7 times 10(3) and 26.7 times 10(3) Pa and constant stirring. Albumin, fibrinogen and transferrin synthesis rates were obtained of 0.32 p 0.094(10), 0.12 p 0.030(11) and 0.097 p 0.017(10) [mean p S.D. (n)]mg/h per g of hepatocytes respectively. These rates were maintained for the first 12h of study and synthesis continued at a diminished rate up to 48h. The synthesis of albumin was decreased in a medium containing less amino acids and glucose, but that of fibrinogen was substantially unaffected. ATP concentrations up to 12h and RNA/DNA ratios up to 24h were comparable with values in vivo. The ability to study cells up to 48h permitted us to find that the addition of a mixture of hormones consisting of glucagon, cortisol, tri-iodothyronine and growth hormone enhanced fibrinogen synthesis. Addition of insulin to the above mixture resulted in increased synthesis for albumin and transferrin but not for fibrinogen.

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