Cloned cDNAs encoding a number of enzymes involved in cholesterol biosynthesis as well as extracellular and intracellular lipid transport were used to compare the developmental maturation of these biologic functions in the fetal and neonatal rat and human liver. The results of RNA blot hybridization analyses indicate that steady-state levels of rat HMG-CoA synthase, HMG-CoA reductase and prenyl transferase mRNAs are highest in late fetal life and undergo precipitous (up to 80-fold) co-ordinate reductions immediately after parturition. These changes reflect the ability of the fetal rat liver to produce large quantities of cholesterol as well as the repression of this function during the suckling period in response to exogenous dietary cholesterol. Striking co-ordinate patterns of HMG-CoA synthase, reductase and prenyl-transferase mRNA accumulation were also observed in four extrahepatic rat tissues (brain, lung, intestine and kidney) during the perinatal period. The concentrations of all three mRNAs in the 8-week-old human fetal liver are similar to those observed throughout subsequent intrauterine development with less than 2-fold changes noted between the 8th through 25th weeks of gestation. Analysis of the levels of human apo AI, apo AII, apo B and liver fatty acid binding protein mRNAs during this period and in newborn liver specimens also indicated less than 2-3-fold changes. These observations suggest that the 8-week human liver has achieved a high degree of biochemical differentiation with respect to functions involved in lipid metabolism/transport which may be comparable to that present in 19-21 day fetal rat liver. Further analysis of human and rat fetal liver RNAs using cloned cDNAs should permit construction of a developmental time scale correlating hepatic biochemical differentiation to be constructed between these two mammalian species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-300
Number of pages8
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)/Lipids and Lipid Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 28 1989


  • Cholesterol
  • Development
  • Expression
  • Lipid transport


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