Insulin in the presence of high concentrations of glucose has a beneficial trophic effect on the development of primary cultures of hepatocytes. Compared to the situation observed in hormone-free control cultures, the flattening of the reaggregated hepatocytes is enhanced, and the reconstituted cell trabeculae are enlarged and tend to form a confluent monolayer after 3 days; the survival time is prolonged from 3 to 5 or 6 days. Ultrastructural modifications are also initiated by insulin; numerous glycogen particles appear after 24 h, in between the cisternae of the proliferated smooth endoplasmic reticulum. After 48 h, large amounts of glycogen are stored, and numerous polysomes are present. A small number of cells showed an increased synthesis of lipid droplets in the lumen of the smooth endoplasmic reticulum and form liposomes at the same time. After 72 h, cytolysomes filled with glycogen develop, simulating glycogenosis type II. Simultaneously, microtubules and microfilaments, closely related to numerous polysomes, appear in cytoplasmic extensions constituting undulating membranes.
The biochemical data demonstrate that, in the absence of insulin, a high concentration of glucose stimulates glycogenesis and hinders glycogenolysis. This effect of glucose on polysaccharide synthesis is progressively lost. The addition of insulin to the culture induces after 48 and 72 h, a three- to fivefold increase of the glucose incorporation into glycogen, as compared to the controls. The presence of insulin is required to maintain the hepatocyte's capacity to store glycogen. Glycogen synthetase is converted into its active form under the influence of glucose. Insulin increases the rate of activation.