A functional and structural heterogeneity is formed among fetal rat hepatocytes during culture

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Abstract

Fetal rat hepatocytes (22-day-old, full-term) in vivo were homogeneous in ultrastructure and glucose 6-phosphatase (G6Pase) distribution throughout the liver acinus. These cells were isolated and cultured for 17 days in Williams medium E containing 10% fetal calf serum, dexamethasone, insulin, and glucagon. Heterogeneity among hepatocytes appeared progressively during culture. There were variations in numbers of binucleated cells, cytoplasmic ultrastructure (e.g., in the distribution of glycogen and the quantity of ultrastructure (e.g., in the distribution of glycogen and the quantity of mitochondria), and intensity of histochemical reactivity for G6Pase. The cells could be classified generally into two types: type I cells had some characteristics of periportal hepatocytes and type II cells those of centrolobular hepatocytes in in vivo adult liver. The results show that a functional and structural heterogeneity can be formed among fetal hepatocytes in monolayer culture without differences in supply of oxygen, nutrients, and hormones. A hidden heterogeneity might already exist among hepatocytes in full-term fetuses even though it cannot be detected ultrastructurally or cytochemically.

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