The number and distribution of hepatic natural killer cells (pit cells) in normal rat liver: An immunohistochemical study



Pit cells are a unique population of cells in sinusoids and peripheral blood, which can be considered natural killer (NK) cells with large granular lymphocyte (LGL) morphology. The aim of this study was to investigate the use of the monoclonal antibody (MAb) 3.2.3 as a specific marker of rat pit cells to detect their number and distribution in the liver. The number of 3.2.3-positive cells was comparable to the number of LGL in liver low-density (LD) and high-density (HD) pit cell fractions and in blood lymphocytes (P > 0.05). Immunoelectron microscopy showed that nearly all LGL in hepatic LD and HD and in blood fractions were 3.2.3 positive. Using MAb 3.2.3 immunoperoxidase staining, the mean number of pit cells in liver frozen sections was determined to be 13.7 ± 1.1/mm2. The number of pit cells was similar in the different liver lobes (P > 0.05). Reduced nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide (NADH) oxidase histochemical staining, to visualize a portal to central vein gradient, combined with immunostaining was used to analyze the lobular distribution of pit cells. We found that 61.3% (17.1/mm2) of pit cells were in the periportal area and 38.7% (10.8/mm2) in the central area. We conclude that MAb 3.2.3 can be used as a specific marker of rat pit cells and therefore can be used to quantify rat pit cell number in various experimental models.