The streaming liver: A slow, divided flow?

Authors


Abstract

Twenty male adult rats weighing 200 g were injected with tritiated thymidine (3HTdR). The animals were then killed in groups of five, at the following times: 1 h, 1, 3 and 5 weeks. Autoradi-ograms of sections through the liver were prepared. The distances between labelled cells and the portal space rim were measured. One hour after labelling most labelled cells were confined to a region extending from the portal space rim up to a distance of 700 μm, which roughy corresponds to Rappaport's hepatic acinus zones-1 and -2. Throughout the experiment lasting 5 weeks labelled cells entered zone-3 and advanced toward the terminal hepatic vein. Hepatocytes travelled at a daily velocity of 1.44 μm, covering daily 0.324% of the acinus diameter. During the experiment acinus size did not change appreciably. The estimated mean hepatocyte cell cycle time was 37 days and its life expectation, 201 days. These experiments show that the liver is essentially a slowly renewing cell population. Hepatocytes nascent at the portal space gradually stream toward the terminal hepatic vein where they are probably eliminated by apoptosis. Their journey lasts 201 days. Since hepatocytes are glued together with tight junctions, all have to advance toward their terminal hepatic veins en masse. During their voyage, they traverse the three acinus zones, and since in each they produce different enzymes, each zone represents a differentiation state of the advancing cell. It is suggested further that the streaming hepatocyte carries with it its nerve supply and is accompanied by sinusoidal endothelium and Kupffer cells.

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