The enzyme activities of mitochondrial glycerol phosphate dehydrogenase (mGPD) (EC and pyruvate carboxylase (PC) (EC have been reported to be low in the pancreatic islet of several rodent models of NIDDM. The present study was undertaken to discern whether mGPD is abnormal in the Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rat (ZDF/Gmi-fa/fa), an animal model of NIDDM in which insulin secretion is unable to counteract the insulin resistance associated with the obesity that characterizes this model. Experiments were performed in prediabetic 6-week-old ZDF rats in comparison with 12-week-old overtly hyperglycemic animals and, as controls, Zucker lean (ZL) rats (ZDF/Gmi-+/fa or -+/+) and Wistar rats (+/+) of the same ages. The enzyme activity of mGPD was 32 and 18% of normal in islets of 6- and 12-week-old ZDF rats, respectively (P < 0.001 by analysis of variance). The activity of PC, which like mGPD is relatively abundant in the pancreatic islet, was 17 and 10% of normal in the islets of 6- and 12-week-old ZDF rats, respectively (P < 0.001). The activity of mGPD was normal in islets from ZL rats. However, PC activity was slightly lower in islets of 6- (51% of normal, P = 0.007) and 12-week-old (67% of normal, P = 0.01) ZL rats. The amounts of mGPD protein, as judged from Western analysis, and of PC protein, as judged from probing transblots with streptavidin that binds to biotin-containing enzymes, roughly correlated with the enzyme activities. This indicates that the decreased enzyme activities are caused by the decreased net synthesis of these enzymes rather than by the decreased activity of a normal amount of enzyme. The enzyme activity of succinate dehydrogenase, a control for mGPD, was normal in the ZL and ZDF rats. An incidental finding of the current study was the discovery of beta-methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase and propionyl-CoA carboxylase in the islet. Levels of these enzymes were also normal. Although reductions in mGPD and PC may contribute to the abnormal insulin secretion present in overt diabetes, they are modest compared with the severe reductions seen in inherited inborn errors of metabolism. Because of this and because more than a single enzyme is affected and the enzymes in the islet are diminished in more than one rodent model of NIDDM, these reductions are unlikely to represent the primary genetic defect in the ZDF rat. Since ZDF rats are euglycemic at 6 weeks of age and ZL animals are euglycemic throughout life and since these animals demonstrate low enzyme activities, this evidence suggests that it is not hyperglycemia but rather some other component of the diabetic syndrome that is responsible for the reductions in these enzymes.

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