The developmental changes of glutamate dehydrogenase activity in the fetal and neonatal rat liver were investigated, as well as the effects of branched-chain amino acids on this enzyme. Hepatic glutamate dehydrogenase activity showed a marked increase at the end of the fetal period and peaked on the 5th day of neonate at approximately 3 times higher than the adult level. Glutamate dehydrogenase was activated by leucine, isoleucine, and valine in this order when they were added to isolated intact liver mitochondria in vitro. The enhancement of enzyme activity was more marked in fetal rats than in adults. In contrast, when branched-chain amino acids were added after disrupting the mitochondrial membrane by sonication, only leucine slightly activated glutamate dehydrogenase, while isoleucine and valine slightly inhibited its activity. Our findings suggest that glutamate may be actively synthesized in the developing rat liver mitochondria and then transaminated to other nonessential amino acids for protein synthesis, and that increased intramitochondrial branched-chain amino acid concentrations may enhance glutamate dehydrogenase activity. This anabolic metabolism will contribute to the fetal growth and development.

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