The changes in intracellular calcium concentration and IP3 production after the addition of epinephrine were analysed in adult, fetal (20th–22nd day of intrauterine life), and regenerating rat hepatocytes (4 h–24 h after partial hepatectomy) to determine whether the signal transduction is the same in quiescent proliferating and differentiating cells.

The epinephrine treatment causes a significative cytosolic calcium transient in hepatocytes isolated in the last day of fetal life (22-day old) and in the early stage of regeneration (4 h). This effect is not significant in the previous stage of fetal life (20-day old) and at the onset of M phase of cell cycle after partial hepatectomy (24 h).

[3H]myo inositol incorporation into IP3 and IP4 is higher in 20 day fetal and regenerating hepatocytes with respect to the control. In these cells the epinephrine does not affect basal level of IP3 and IP4, while it causes a substantial increase of these inositol phosphates in adult hepatocytes.

[3H]myo inositol incorporation into PIP2 is very low at the 20th day of fetal life. Epinephrine has no effect on this parameter in fetal and regenerating hepatocytes.

Our results show that the epinephrine signal is mediated differently in proliferating and in quiescent hepatocytes.

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