The recirculating perfusion of adult rat liver with a Ca-++-free Hanks' solution produces a release of the adhesiveness of cells and a cleaving of the desmosomes. The addition of collagenase and hyaluronidase to the perfusion medium leads to complete dissociation of the liver tissue into a mixture of isolated cells and cell cords in which the hepatocytes remain connected with specific junctional differentiations, namely the gap and tight junctions. Individual cells are released by submitting the suspension of cell trabeculae to a gentle rolling. The gap junctions are ruptured at least in one of the two adjacent cells and remain generally attached to the other cell taking with them a small portion of cytoplasm. This technique of isolation of hepatocytes yields about 60-65% of the parenchymal cells contained in a liver; endothelial cells and other cells of the connective tissue are not recovered. The ultrastructural preservation of the isolated hepatocytes is excellent and the glucose-6-phosphatase activity, confined to the endoplasmic reticulum, appears unaltered in most cells. Protein, DNA and RNA recovery in the preparations of isolated hepatocytes is satisfactory, amounting to 70% of that found in liver homogenate; glycogen, the most labile component examined, is partly lost or degraded during the manipulations. Cell diameters measured by different methods confirm the preservation of the original volume of the in situ hepatocytes and the presence of more than one type of parenchymal cell. By submitting this heterogeneous cell population to an isopycnic density gradient centrifugation, two types of hepatocytes can be distinguished: the light hepatocytes, with a mean diameter of 20.5 mum and a mean density of 1.10, are characterized by an extended smooth-walled endoplasmic reticulum entrapping dispersed alpha-glycogen particles; the heavy hepatocytes, with a mean diameter of 19.0 mum and a mean density of 1.14, present a relatively reduced compartment of smooth endoplasmic reticulum, but large accumulations of glycogen. It is suggested that the cell fraction of low density is enriched in centrolobular cells and the high density fraction in perilobular hepatocytes.

This content is only available as a PDF.