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Abstract

The objective of this study was to determine the effects of chronic dexamethasone (DEX) administration on hepatic ultrastructure and to correlate these changes with plasma lipoprotein levels. Electron microscopic studies were made of hepatocytes from male rats killed 1, 3 and 5 days after DEX (2 mg, twice per day) administration. Three days after treatment plasma lipoprotein levels were highest and hepatocytes contained regions of the cytosome rich in elements of the smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER). Osmiophilic particles were present in the tubules and vesicles of the SER, in the saccules and vacuoles of the Golgi complex, in secretory vesicles near the cell surface and in the space of Disse. DEX treatments also caused hepatocytes to accumulate tightly packed masses of β-particles of glycogen in some regions of the cell while other areas displayed dispersed glycogen particles that were associated with the SER. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that glucocorticoids 1. cause an elevation of plasma lipoprotein levels by in creasing hepatic synthesis and secretion of VLDL, which involves the sequential participation of the ER, the Golgi complex and exocytosis of VLDL-containing vacuoles into the space of Disse, and 2. produce a change in the nature of the association of glycogen particles with the SER membranes in response to the physiological state of the animal.