The concentration of plasma vitronectin was determined and compared with various parameters of liver function including the blood coagulation system in patients with liver diseases. The severity of cirrhosis was graded according to Child's criteria and compared with the plasma vitronectin level. Furthermore, the distribution of vitronectin in the liver of patients with liver diseases was studied by light and electron microscopy using the indirect immunoperoxidase method.

The plasma vitronectin level was low in all liver disease groups as compared with the healthy controls. The difference from the controls was significant in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma and decompensated cirrhosis. Moreover, the plasma vitronectin level was positively correlated with the levels of serum cholinesterase, albumin, plasma α2 plasmin inhibitor-plasmin complex and the prothrombin time and results of the hepatoplastin test. Plasma vitronectin decreased with increasing severity of cirrhosis according to Child's criteria. These results suggest that the plasma vitronectin level is a useful parameter of hepatic synthetic function in patients with liver diseases; it may also reflect the severity of cirrhosis.

Light microscopy revealed vitronectin in the area of focal necrosis and the portal tracts in the liver of patients with acute viral hepatitis, in the area of piecemeal necrosis in the liver of patients with chronic hepatitis and along the area of fiber deposition in the liver of patients with cirrhosis. Immunoelectron microscopy showed vitronectin in the rough endoplasmic reticulum of hepatocytes. Moreover, vitronectin was seen around inflammatory cells, endothelial cells, Ito cells and hepatocytes in the perisinusoidal area near focal necrosis and piecemeal necrosis and on collagen fibers.

These results suggest that vitronectin may be produced by hepatocytes and that they play an important role as an extracellular matrix component in the injured liver. (Hepatology 1992;15:629–636).