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The regional expression of six different cytochrome P450 (CYP) forms in rat liver under constitutive and induced conditions was compared using immunological techniques. Immunostaining of consecutive thin sections from control liver revealed that the same hepatocytes, forming a 6–8 cells thick layer surrounding the terminal hepatic venules, were stained for CYP2B1/2, CYP2E1 and CYP3A1. Staining of CYP2A1 extended further into the midzonal region, whereas all cells of the acinus stained for CYPEtOH2. These results were supported by Western blot analysis of cell lysates from the periportal or perivenous region obtained by zone-restricted digitonin treatment during in situ perfusion. The data suggest three distinct patterns of constitutive P450 expression: perivenous-restricted (CYP2B1/2, CYP2E1 and CYP3A1); perivenous-dominated (CYP2A1) and panacinar (CYPEtOH2).

Chronic exposure to ethanol caused induction of CYP2E1 in the same cells already being constitutively expressed, whereas CYPEtOH2 was more induced in the periportal area. The relative induction of CYP2B1/2, CYP3A1 and CYPEtOH2 after treatment with phenobarbital was stronger in periportal hepatocytes, resulting in levelling out of the initial perivenous dominance of CYP2B1/2 and CYP3A1, whereas CYPEtOH2 became periportal-dominated. Acetone induced CYP2E1, CYP2C11 and CYP3A1 selectively in the perivenous area. These studies indicate that a particular P450 isozyme is generally induced in the same cells where it is constitutively expressed, and that this regional selectivity is independent of the kind of inducer. The data suggest that, during maturation, the hepatocytes acquire various phenotypes in the periportal and perivenous region, to respond differently to endogenous and exogenous signals in the control of P450 expression.