In order to characterize the system of L-tryptophan (TRP) transport into liver during the growing period of 10 to 42 days, the changes of tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase (TDO) activity, levels of serum, liver, brain, and muscle TRP, and the rate and mode of TRP uptake into isolated hepatocytes were examined in male Wistar rats. Liver TDO activity increased rapidly at 16 days of age. A marked and rapid decrease in free serum TRP level occurred before weanling, while a small decrease in total serum TRP level was found after weanling. The change of liver TRP level was similar to that of free serum TRP level and correlated well. There was a significant inverse correlation between liver TDO activity and either free serum TRP level or liver TRP level. A rapid change in TRP level did not occur in brain and muscle during the growing period. The concentrations of brain and muscle TRP correlated better with those of total serum TRP than with those of free serum TRP. The rate of TRP uptake into hepatocytes isolated from rats aged 10 days was lower than that from rats aged 21 and 42 days. The former hepatocytes were lacking in a high-affinity saturable transport component for TRP uptake which was present in the latter ones. The present results indicate that a great change in the system of TRP transport into liver occurs in growing rats, and that in suckling rats a high level of free serum TRP contributes to the efficient transport of the amino acid into the liver.
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