We investigated pancreatic gene expression in the rat in response to taurocholate-induced acute pancreatitis. Concentrations of transcripts encoding pancreatic protein showed noncoordinated alterations. Contents in amylase, trypsinogen I, chymotrypsinogen B, elastase 1, and procarboxypeptidase A mRNAs decreased by greater than 50% during the acute phase (days 0-2), whereas actin and lithostathine mRNAs increased 5 and 0.6 times, respectively, and pancreatitis-associated protein (PAP) mRNA increased greater than 200 times, indicating redirection of the pattern of gene expression. Synthesis of pancreatic proteins was also altered in a noncoordinated manner. During the acute phase, it decreased more for trypsinogen I and chymotrypsinogen B than for amylase and lipase, whereas synthesis of the PAP increased dramatically. For amylase and chymotrypsinogen B, we compared the patterns of changes in mRNA concentrations, rates of synthesis, and pancreatic contents. Changes in enzyme contents and synthetic rates were temporally correlated during the acute phase. On the contrary, changes in mRNA concentrations and enzyme synthesis were not coordinated, suggesting that control of synthesis partly occurred at the posttranscriptional level. It was concluded that induction of pancreatitis is accompanied by transcriptional and posttranscriptional modifications resulting in rapid and massive rearrangement of the pattern of pancreatic protein gene expression.