Vitamin A storage in hepatic stellate cells in the regenerating rat liver: With special reference to zonal heterogeneity



Under physiological conditions, hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) within liver lobules store about 80% of the total body vitamin A in lipid droplets in their cytoplasm, and these cells show zonal heterogeneity in terms of vitamin A-storing capacity. Vitamin A is essential for the growth and differentiation of cells, and it is well known that liver cells including HSCs show a remarkable growth capacity after partial hepatectomy (PHx). However, the status of vitamin A storage in HSCs in the liver regeneration is not yet known. Therefore, we conducted the present study to examine vitamin A storage in these cells during liver regeneration. Morphometry at the electron microscopic level, fluorescence microscopy for vitamin A autofluorescence, and immunofluorescence microscopy for desmin and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) were performed on sections of liver from male Wistar strain rats at various times after the animal had been subjected to 70% PHx. The mean area of vitamin A-storing lipid droplets per HSC gradually decreased toward 3 days after PHx, and then returned to normal within 14 days after it. However, the heterogeneity of vitamin A-storing lipid droplet area per HSC within the hepatic lobule disappeared after PHx and did not return to normal by 14 days thereafter, even though the liver volume had returned to normal. These results suggest that HSCs alter their vitamin A-storing capacity during liver regeneration and that the recovery of vitamin A homeostasis requires a much longer time than that for liver volume. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.