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Abstract

The implantation of grafts below 30% of the normal liver volume is associated with a high risk of failure known as small-for-size (SFS) syndrome. Strategies to rescue small grafts may have a dramatic impact on organ shortage. Serotonin is a potent growth factor for the liver. The goal of this study was to determine whether enhanced serotonin signaling could prevent the deleterious effects of SFS syndrome. We performed 30% normal liver volume transplantations in wild-type C57/BL6 and interleukin-6 (IL-6)−/− mice. Some animals received α-methyl-5-HT (DOI), an agonist of serotonin receptor-2 (5-HT2B). Endpoints included long-term survival, serum and hepatic markers of liver injury and regeneration, assessment of hepatic microcirculation by intravital fluorescence microscopy and scanning electron microscopy, and transcript levels of a variety of serotonin receptors, tumor necrosis factor α, and IL-6. All recipients of small grafts (controls) died within 2-4 days of transplantation, whereas half of those receiving DOI survived permanently. Control animals disclosed major liver injury, including diffuse microvesicular steatosis in hepatocytes, impairment of microcirculation, and a failure of regeneration, whereas these parameters were dramatically improved in animals subjected to DOI. Blockage of 5-HT2B blunted the protective effects of DOI. Whereas IL-6 levels were higher in DOI-treated animals, IL-6−/− mice were still protected by DOI, suggesting a protective pathway independent of IL-6. Conclusion: Serotonin through its action on receptor-2B protects SFS liver grafts from injury and prevents microcirculation and regeneration. The mechanism of hepato-protection is independent of IL-6. (Hepatology 2011;)