To assess the effect of starvation and to explore the potential interrelationship of starvation and thyroid status at the pretranslational level, we have analyzed by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, the hepatic translational products of starved and fed euthyroid and hypothyroid rats. 5 d of starvation resulted in a statistically significant change in 27 of 240 products visualized, whereas hypothyroidism caused a change in 20, both in comparison with the fed euthyroid state. Of considerable interest was that 68% of all changing messenger (m)RNA sequences were common to the hypothyroid and starved groups and showed the same directional shift. Further, both starvation and hypothyroidism yielded comparable decreases in total hepatic cytoplasmic RNA content. Although it has been well established that the level of circulating triiodothyronine (T3) and the level of hepatic nuclear receptors fall in starvation, this reduction cannot account for the observed decrease of total hepatic RNA nor for all of the alterations in the concentrations of specific mRNA sequences. Thus, administration of T3 to starved animals in a dose designed to occupy all nuclear T3 receptors fails to prevent the fall in total RNA and the majority of starvation-induced changes in the level of mRNA sequences. Moreover, starvation of athyreotic animals results in a further decrease in total RNA and in a further change in the level of individual mRNA species. We conclude, therefore, that although the reduced levels of circulating T3 and the nuclear T3 receptors can contribute to the observed results of starvation, the starvation-induced changes are not exclusively mediated by this factor. The striking overlap in the genomic response between hypothyroid and starved animals raises the possibility that those biochemical mechanisms regulated at a pretranslational level by T3 are either not helpful or injurious to the starving animal. The reduction in circulating T3 and nuclear receptor sites together with T3-independent mechanisms initiated in the starved animal may constitute redundant processes designed to conserve energy and substrate in the nutritionally deprived organism.


F E Carr, S Seelig, C N Mariash, H L Schwartz, J H Oppenheimer


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