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Keywords:

  • atomic force microscopy;
  • electron tomography;
  • fenestrae labyrinth;
  • fenestrations;
  • hepatic endothelium;
  • liver sieve;
  • liver sinusoidal endothelium;
  • pores;
  • porosity;
  • TEM sections;
  • transendothelial transport

Abstract

Background/Aims: Liver sinusoidal endothelial cell (LSEC) fenestrae are membrane-bound pores that are grouped in sieve plates and act as a bidirectional guardian in regulating transendothelial liver transport. The high permeability of the endothelial lining is explained by the presence of fenestrae and by various membrane-bound transport vesicles. The question as to whether fenestrae relate to other transport compartments remains unclear and has been debated since their discovery almost 40 years ago.

Methods: In this study, novel insights concerning the three-dimensional (3D) organization of the fenestrated cytoplasm were built on transmission electron tomographical observations on isolated and cultured whole-mount LSECs. Classical transmission electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy imaging was performed to accumulate cross-correlative structural evidence.

Results and Conclusions: The data presented here indicate that different arrangements of fenestrae have to be considered: i.e. open fenestrae that lack any structural obstruction mainly located in the thin peripheral cytoplasm and complexes of multifolded fenestrae organized as labyrinth-like structures that are found in the proximity of the perinuclear area. Fenestrae in labyrinths constitute about one-third of the total LSEC porosity. The 3D reconstructions also revealed that coated pits and small membrane-bound vesicles are exclusively interspersed in the non-fenestrated cytoplasmic arms.