Localization of hyaluronan in human liver sinusoids: a histochemical study using hyaluronan-binding protein


Department of Internal Medicine III, Niigata University School of Medicine, 754 Asahimachi-Dori 1, Niigata City, Niigata 951, Japan


Abstract: Circulating hyaluronan is mostly derived from lymph, fibroblast and Ito cells in the liver, and more than 90% of hyaluronan is degraded in hepatic sinusoidal endothelial cells. Thus, elevated serum hyaluronan is regarded as an indication of hepatic fibrosis with activated Ito cells and dysfunctional sinusoidal endothelial cells. We studied the distribution of hyaluronan in human liver sinusoids to determine the influences on elevated hyaluronan levels in sera. Histochemical examination was made using hyaluronan-binding protein (HABP) and serial sections of liver tissue for staining of alpha-smooth muscle actin (ASMA) (an indicator of activated Ito cells) and of ulex europaeus agglutinin I lectin (UEA-1) (closely related to hepatic sinusoidal capillarization). Positive staining, indicating the presence of hyaluronan, was noted in fibrous regions around the portal tracts, areas of focal necrosis in the liver parenchyma, and walls of the sinusoids in chronic hepatitis. In this group, hyaluronan-positive areas corresponded to positive ASMA staining and faint staining of UEA-1. On the contrary, in liver cirrhosis, UEA-1-positive areas were essentially identical to hyaluronan-positive areas and to ASMA-negative areas in sinusoidal walls. Hyaluronan and ASMA could be detected in the same areas of sinusoidal walls in chronic hepatitis, but not in liver cirrhosis. Hyaluronan appears to be mainly related to the staining of activated Ito cells in chronic hepatitis. Therefore, we concluded that in chronic hepatitis, the production of hyaluronan was accelerated in Ito cells; however, degradation of hyaluronan by sinusoidal endothelial cells continued. On the contrary, in liver cirrhosis, hyaluronan production decreased in Ito cells, and a marked transformation of sinusoidal endothelial cells with hepatic sinusoidal capillarization indicated loss of the ability to degrade hyaluronan. These different mechanisms in chronic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis may operate in the sinusoidal walls and may cause the elevation of hyaluronan in sera.