The inhibitor of mitochondrial pyruvate transport alpha-cyano-beta-(1-phenylindol-3-yl)-acrylate was used to inhibit progressively pyruvate carboxylation by liver mitochondria from control and glucagon-treated rats. The data showed that, contrary to our previous conclusions [Halestrap (1978) Biochem. J. 172, 389-398], pyruvate transport could not regulate metabolism under these conditions. This was confirmed by measuring the intramitochondrial pyruvate concentration, which almost equilibrated with the extramitochondrial pyruvate concentration in control mitochondria, but was significantly decreased in mitochondria from glucagon-treated rats, where rates of pyruvate metabolism were elevated. Computer-simulation studies explain how this is compatible with linear Dixon plots of the inhibition of pyruvate metabolism by alpha-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamate. Parallel measurements of the mitochondrial membrane potential by using [3H]triphenylmethylphosphonium ions showed that it was elevated by about 3 mV after pretreatment of rats with both glucagon and phenylephrine. There was no significant change in the transmembrane pH gradient. It is shown that the increase in pyruvate metabolism can be explained by a stimulation of the respiratory chain, producing an elevation in the protonmotive force and a consequent rise in the intramitochondrial ATP/ADP ratio, which in turn increases pyruvate carboxylase activity. Mild inhibition of the respiratory chain with Amytal reversed the effects of hormone treatment on mitochondrial pyruvate metabolism and ATP concentrations, but not on citrulline synthesis. The significance of these observations for the hormonal regulation of gluconeogenesis from L-lactate in vivo is discussed.
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