• bile duct ligation;
  • cholestasis;
  • epidermal growth factor;
  • interleukin-6;
  • transforming growth factor-β1;
  • tumour necrosis factor

1. Cytokines are soluble factors whose action has been documented in physiological and pathological conditions. Some may be involved in the pathogenesis of cholestasis, whether of acute or chronic origin.

2. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the influence of epidermal growth factor (EGF), transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, interleukin (IL)-6 and tumour necrosis factor (TNF) on cholestasis. Findings from Sprague-Dawley rats submitted to bile duct ligation for 1–28 days were compared with those from controls, which underwent laparotomy but not bile duct ligation.

3. Biochemical and morphological findings confirmed that the experimental procedure was successful. At the end of each follow-up period, the hepatic levels of the cytokines were determined and compared with liver histology findings.

4. The four cytokines studied showed different patterns of activation: hepatic levels of EGF, higher in the experimental than the control group, were comparable with the proliferative picture. The TGF-β1 pattern was correlated with data of periportal, perivenular and perineoductular fibrosis, confirming that this cytokine has a role in mediating the synthesis of matrix proteins. A fluctuating, phasic pattern was found for TNF in the experimental group, with high values on day 0, a decrease on the first and second postoperative days and then two peaks on days 8 and 14. Finally, immediately after surgical manipulation, high levels of IL-6 were found in the experimental group, followed by a decrease in levels until zero values were obtained.

5. This suggests that the obstructive condition produces several cytokine responses, each of which contributes to determine the cholestatic condition.