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The effects of ACTH or dibutyryl cyclic AMP (Bt2cAMP) on the synthesis of sterol carrier protein-2 (SCP2) have been studied in rat adrenocortical cells in monolayer culture. Radiolabeling of total cellular proteins with [35S]methionine and immunoprecipitation with antibodies directed against rat liver SCP2, followed by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and fluorography, showed a 3-4-fold increase in the rate of synthesis of SCP2 in cells treated for 48 h with ACTH (1 microM) or Bt2cAMP (0.1 mM). The induction of SCP2 synthesis depended upon the concentrations of ACTH or Bt2cAMP with an ED50 of 8 and 100 nM, respectively, and increased linearly with time between 12 and 48 h of treatment. Immunoprecipitation of SCP2 synthesized in a rabbit reticulocyte in vitro translation system programmed with RNA isolated from cells treated with ACTH or Bt2cAMP revealed increased synthesis of SCP2 compared to RNA from control cells. The immunoprecipitable rat adrenal SCP2, synthesized in a cell-free translation system, showed mobility corresponding to Mr of 14,400 upon sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and was clearly larger than immunodetectable SCP2 synthesized in cultured adrenal cells (Mr = 11,300). The electrophoretic mobilities of rat liver SCP2 synthesized in cultured cells and in a cell-free translation system were the same as the respective forms from rat adrenal. It is concluded that the synthesis of SCP2 in rat adrenocortical cells is induced by ACTH and that the induction is mediated by cAMP and may involve increased levels of translatable mRNA encoding a higher molecular weight precursor form of SCP2, which presumably undergoes post-translational processing yielding the mature form.