Perfused rat livers and isolated rat hepatocytes exhibited a 50% decrease in the secretion of both albumin and total secretory proteins after thyroidectomy. In contrast, synthesis of non-secretory proteins was decreased by only 20% from the rates observed in liver preparations from euthyroid rats. These observations suggested a disproportionate effect of thyroidectomy on the synthesis of secretory proteins compared with non-secretory proteins. Disproportionate decreases in the synthesis of albumin in other endocrine-deficient states such as hypophysectomy and diabetes had previously been shown to be associated with decreases of similar magnitude in the relative abundance of albumin-mRNA sequences. In contrast, thyroidectomy did not affect the activity or amount of albumin mRNA in total liver poly(A)-containing RNA when assayed by cell-free translation and by hybridization with complementary DNA, respectively. Furthermore, labelling experiments in vivo demonstrated that albumin synthesis represented 12.9 +/- 0.5% and 12.4 +/- 0.4% of total protein synthesis in livers of thyroidectomized and euthyroid rats respectively. Therefore the fall in secretion of albumin and total secretory protein after thyroidectomy did not appear to be a reflection of disproportionate decreases in the synthesis of these proteins. Instead, defects in steps involved in the post-synthetic processing and secretion of albumin are suggested. A number of comparisons, including ribosome half-transit times, the size distributions of total and albumin-synthesizing polyribosomes, and the fraction of RNA present as inactive ribosomes, provided evidence that the overall decrease in protein synthesis after thyroidectomy was not due to generalized alterations in translational processes. Instead, the decrease in total protein synthesis appeared to reflect the RNA content of the liver, which fell in proportion to th decrease in protein synthesis.

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