Large granular lymphocytes in the liver



Considerable numbers of large granular lymphocytes (LGL) were isolated from rat liver by a simple method consisting of sinusoidal lavage at elevated (50 cm water column) perfusion pressure. This method gave a yield comparable with the enzymatic dissociation method commonly used for the isolation of nonparenchymal liver cells, but was shorter in time and had the advantage of avoiding the potentially harmful effects of the dissociating enzymes. The isolated LGL were highly cytotoxic against YAC-1 lymphoma cells and this cytolytic activity was blocked by treatment of the effector cells with an antibody against natural killer cells (anti-asialo GMI). We characterized the hepatic LGL as nonphagocytic, nonadherent, per-oxidase-negative and acid phosphatase-positive cells which could be enriched in the low-density fraction of a Percoll gradient. At the light micro- scopic level, they showed characteristic azuro- philic granules, which corresponded to strongly osmiophilic granules with a specific morphology in electron microscopy. It is concluded that these LGL are identical to the “pit cells” which were formerly described by electron microscopy in situ as normal components of the liver sinusoids and which are easily recognized by their fine structure. It is also proposed that the liver may represent one of the major natural killer organs.