The tissue-specific expression of the mitochondrial 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) synthase gene was studied in 15-day-old suckling rats. The mRNA and protein were present in liver, intestine and kidney, but were absent from brain, heart, skeletal muscles, brown and white adipose tissues. Kidney-cortex mitochondria from suckling rats were able to produce low amounts of ketone bodies from oleate. Hepatic, intestinal and renal HMG-CoA synthase mRNA levels increased slowly during foetal life and markedly after birth. The postnatal increase in liver HMG-CoA synthase mRNA could be due to the increase in plasma glucagon levels, since it rapidly induced the accumulation of HMG-CoA synthase mRNA in cultured foetal hepatocytes. Hepatic, intestinal and renal HMG-CoA synthase mRNA levels remained elevated throughout the suckling period or in rats weaned on to a high-fat carbohydrate-free diet (HF), but decreased by 50% in the liver and totally disappeared from the intestine and the kidney of rats weaned on to a high-carbohydrate low-fat diet (HC). When HC-weaned rats were fed on a HF-diet for a week, HMG-CoA synthase mRNA was re-induced in the intestine and the kidney. The role of hormones and nutrients in the regulation of HMG-CoA synthase gene expression is discussed.

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