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Keywords:

  • graft-versus-host disease;
  • hepatic changes;
  • intralobular changes

ABSTRACT— Intralobular changes of the liver in experimental graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) across minor histocompatibility barriers were investigated for up to 14 months after bone marrow transplantation. Sinusoidal lymphocyte infiltration, and necrosis and degeneration of hepatocytes were evident by day 4 and reached a maximum level at 2 weeks after transplantation, then gradually decreased, but they persisted during the entire period of observation, indicating that more or less hepatocyte injury may persist continuously in hepatic GVHD. Piecemeal necrosis was transiently observed around 2 weeks after transplantation, in parallel with the peak of lymphocyte infiltration into the portal area. Similarly, central vein endothelialitis (attachment of lymphocytes to endothelial cells) was transiently observed with a peak activity at 2 weeks after transplantation. Mild centrilobular and portal fibroplasia were evident by 2 weeks after transplantation, but they hardly progressed and no cases developed liver cirrhosis. Frequently lymphocytes were found located beneath endothelial cells and attached to hepatocytes. Ultrastructural observation revealed that sinusoidal lymphocytes were occasionally in contact with endothelial cells by means of cytoplasmic pseudopods. Also lymphocytes were frequently in close contact with hepatocyte plasma membranes over short distances. Lymphocytes occasionally accompanied other inflammatory cells, such as eosinophilic leukocytes and mononuclear phagocytic cells. Hepatocytes in close contact with lymphocyte and other inflammatory cells showed a varying degree of degenerative changes, including condensation of cytoplasm and nucleus with irregular nuclear contours, dilatation of endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria, formation of cytoplasmic vacuoles, and loss of microvilli. Although the distribution and the degree of morphologic abnormalities of hepatocytes were not so prominent as the bile duct lesions seen in the present mouse hepatic GVHD, hepatocyte injury was observed consistently for up to 14 months after transplantation, indicating that lymphocytes, together with concomitant non-lymphocytic cells, may play an important role in the induction of hepatocyte injury. Hepatocyte injury may be an inherent part of pathologic changes of hepatic GVHD.