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Abstract

The distribution pattern of a periportal enzyme (carbamoylphosphate synthetase) and a pericentral enzyme (glutamine synthetase) in human and rat liver has provided an objective parameter to delineate the zonal boundaries of the liver acinus. On sections, the pericental zone (zone 3) is circular and discrete rather than star-like and reticular, as predicted by the acinar concept, whereas the periportal zone (zone 1) is reticular, i.e. contiguous between adjacent acini rather than discrete. Three-dimensionally, the composite of pericentral zones (the pericentral compartment) follows the branching pattern of the terminal hepatic (central) vein, whereas the composite of periportal zones (the periportal compartment) envelops the pericentral compartment as a three-dimensional network (reticulum). This modified concept that is based upon the three-dimensional distribution of hepatocyte-specific enzymes is supported by data from the literature regarding the three-dimensional angioarchitecture of the liver, the perfusion pattern of the liver and the three-dimensional pattern of tissue oxygenation. Hence, a-unified concept of the liver architecture that is based upon the observed distribution pattern of blood flow, of gene expression and of metabolism can be established.