Fatty acid metabolism was studied in periportal and perivenous hepatocytes isolated by the method of Chen & Katz [Biochem. J. (1988) 255, 99-104]. The rate of fatty acid synthesis and the activity of acetyl-CoA carboxylase were markedly enhanced in perivenous hepatocytes as compared with periportal cells. However, the response of these two parameters to short-term modulation by cellular effectors such as the hormones insulin and glucagon, the phorbol ester 4 beta-phorbol 12 beta-myristate 13 alpha-acetate and the xenobiotics ethanol and acetaldehyde was similar in the two zones of the liver. In addition, perivenous hepatocytes showed a higher capacity of esterification of exogenous fatty acids into both cellular and very-low-density-lipoprotein lipids. Nevertheless, no difference between the two cell sub-populations seemed to exist in relation to the secretion of very-low-density lipoproteins. On the other hand, the rate of fatty acid oxidation was increased in periportal cells. This could be accounted for by a higher activity of carnitine palmitoyltransferase I and a lower sensitivity of this enzyme to inhibition by malonyl-CoA in the periportal zone. No differences were observed between periportal and perivenous hepatocytes in relation to the short-term response of fatty acid oxidation and carnitine palmitoyltransferase I activity to the cellular modulators mentioned above. In conclusion, our results show that: (i) lipogenesis is achieved at higher rates in the perivenous zone of the liver, whereas the fatty-acid-oxidative process occurs with a certain preference in the periportal area of this organ; (ii) the short-term response of the different fatty-acid-metabolizing pathways to cellular effectors is quantitatively similar in the two zones of the liver.

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