We have compared by immunocytochemistry and immunoblotting the expression and distribution of adhesion molecules participating in cell-matrix and cell-cell interactions during embryonic development and regeneration of rat liver. Fibronectin and the fibronectin receptor, integrin alpha 5 beta 1, were distributed pericellularly and expressed at a steady level during development from the 16th day of gestation and in neonate and adult liver. AGp110, a nonintegrin fibronectin receptor was first detected on the 17th day of gestation in a similar, nonpolarized distribution on parenchymal cell surfaces. At that stage of development haemopoiesis is at a peak in rat liver and fibronectin and receptors alpha 5 beta 1 and AGp110 were prominent on the surface of blood cell precursors. During the last 2 d of gestation (20th and 21st day) hepatocytes assembled around lumina. AGp110 was initially depolarized on the surface of these acinar cells but then confined to the lumen and to newly-formed bile canaliculi. At birth, a marked increase occurred in the canalicular expression of AGp110 and in the branching of the canalicular network. Simultaneously, there was enhanced expression of ZO-1, a protein component of tight junctions. On the second day postpartum, presence of AGp110 and of protein constituents of desmosomes and intermediate junctions, DGI and E-cadherin, respectively, was notably enhanced in cellular fractions insoluble in nonionic detergents, presumably signifying linkage of AGp110 with the cytoskeleton and assembly of desmosomal and intermediate junctions. During liver regeneration after partial hepatectomy, AGp110 remained confined to apical surfaces, indicating a preservation of basic polarity in parenchymal cells. A decrease in the extent and continuity of the canalicular network occurred in proliferating parenchyma, starting 24 h after resection in areas close to the terminal afferent blood supply of portal veins and spreading to the rest of the liver within the next 24 h. Distinct acinar structures, similar to the ones in prenatal liver, appeared at 72 h after hepatectomy. Restoration of the normal branching of the biliary tree commenced at 72 h. At 7 d postoperatively acinar formation declined and one-cell-thick hepatic plates, as in normal liver, were observed.

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