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Abstract

Pit cells, or large granular lymphocytes, with natural tumoricidal activity are found in the sinusoids of normal rat liver. Hepatic large granular lymphocytes are heterogeneous and can be subdivided into two subsets. These subsets were compared with peripheralblood large granular lymphocytes and were found to differ phenotypically and functionally. Phenotypical differences included lower expression of the asialo-GM1 marker of natural killer cells, lower cellular density and many more small cytoplasmic granules in hepatic large, granular lymphocytes. Low-density hepatic large, granular lymphocytes were five to eight times more cytotoxic than blood large, granular lymphocytes on a per-cell basis as measured against YAC-1 cells and colon carcinoma cells. In addition, hepatic large, granular lymphocytes were able to lyse P-815 target cells, which are resistant to blood natural killer cells. Large, granular lymphocytes isolated from the liver also contained a subset with intermediate phenotypical and functional characteristics, possibly representing a transitional form between blood and “liverspecific” large, granular lymphocytes. The liver thus contains a specific population of highly activated or further differentiated large granular lymphocytes. (HEPATOLOGY 1990;12:70–75).