Electron microscopic observation of destruction of biliary epithelium in primary biliary cirrhosis


Second Department of Pathology School of Medicine Kanazawa University Kanazawa 920 Japan


ABSTRACT— Electron microscopic studies of the intrahepatic biliary tree in 16 patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) disclosed four types of biliary epithelial injury suggesting cell death in the ducts: 1) coagulative and 2) lytic necrosis without detachment of affected cells from the biliary epithelial layer, and 3) apoptosis and 4) detachment of several adjoining biliary cells from the basement membrane and neighboring biliary cells. Lesions 1), 2) and 3) were also found in livers with extrahepatic cholestasis without bile duct loss, and 1) and 2) were found in PBC livers irrespective of the degree of bile duct loss. 3) was rare and mostly confined to bile ductules, when present. By contrast, 4) was only observed in PBC, especially in livers with a moderate degree of bile duct loss in which extensive bile duct destruction appeared to be progressing. Detached biliary cells in lesion 4) were occasionally in contact with and/or surrounded by migrating lymphocytes with pseudopod formation, suggesting lymphocyte-target cell interactions. It therefore seems possible that epithelial detachment is an important ultrastructural lesion associated with extensive bile duct destruction in PBC livers.