• ASGP-R;
  • hepatocytes;
  • liver heterogeneity;
  • pericentral;
  • RHL-1;
  • zonation

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to define the distribution of the asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGP-R) main peptide, rat hepatic lectin (RHL)-1, within the rat liver lobule and to investigate its possible modulation in physiological states characterised by marked changes of receptorial expression. In particular, we chose livers from rats partially hepatectomised or at the end of pregnancy, as models, respectively, of decreased or increased expression of the ASGP-R, and used the in situ hybridisation and immunocytochemistry techniques to analyse in parallel the lobular distributions of RHL-1 mRNA and protein. In normal rat liver, although the RHL-1 mRNA was homogeneously distributed, the RHL-1 peptide was predominantly localised on the surface of pericentral hepatocytes with a gradient of expression towards the periportal zone. This gradient of expression of RHL-1 peptide was reduced in regenerating livers, in which the positive stain was restricted to a few layers of cells around the central vein. In contrast, livers at the end of pregnancy showed an overall increase of the peptide with a concomitant flattening of the gradient across the liver plate. In all the conditions, we never observed important changes in the pattern of expression of the specific mRNA. These findings indicate that the distribution of ASGP-R is heterogeneous across the liver lobule, with a pattern of expression prevalently modulated at the posttranscriptional level.