Mallory bodies and intermediate filaments: Of mice and men



Livers from 12 mice fed griseofulvin for 4 to 6 months were perfused in situ with a detergent solution to extract lipid membranes leaving the cytoskeleton intact. Seven control mice were similarly studied. After 30 to 120 minutes perfusion, liver samples were examined by scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. By light microscopy, Mallory bodies (MBs) were observed in pericentral hepatocytes. These were confirmed by transmission electron microscopy. Intermediate filaments (IFs) were observed in close apposition to MBs. Numerous IFs were seen throughout the cytoplasm. The 3-dimensional organization of the cytoskeleton and MBs were clearly visualized by scanning electron microscopy. The IFs were disorganized in the hepatocytes and formed small MBs in griseofulvin- treated mice. In the case of hepatocytes containing large MBs, there was an apparent decrease in the concentration of IFs. Transition forms of dense networks of IFs between the normal cytoskeleton and the MBs were noted in the cytoplasm between small MBs and the nucleus and also at the cell border. The IFs connected to the nucleus and invaded the MBs. The MBs appeared to form as a result of condensation or collapse of the IFs.

Evidence has been accumulating that Mallory body (MB) is a heritable phenotype of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and is closely related to hepatocarcinogenesis in some carcinogen-fed animals. This prompted us to try to evaluate the MB phenomenon in human HCCs, in which its significance remains unclear to date. Whole liver slices were obtained from 28 autopsied livers in which MB-positive HCC was found, and distribution of MBs within the HCC was examined. There were three distribution patterns: clustering, diffuse, and sparse types. The clustering type was the most frequent and was found in 21 of the 28 cases. In this type, there was a formation of groups of the MB-containing cells within the HCC, and the cluster of MB-positive cells was variable in number, size, and shape. There was often a sharp border line between MB-positive clusters and the surrounding MB-negative HCC cell areas where a collision line could occasionally be seen. Some of the MB-containing HCC cells were positive for γ-glutamyl transpeptidase and α-fetoprotein. These data led the authors to speculate that MB-positive HCC cells in human livers are capable of proliferation to form the clusters and that therefore, MBs are expressed as a kind of heritable phenotype in such clusters.