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.
Daily phenobarbital (PB) injections, on 3-7 consecutive days, induce an intense proliferation of smooth endoplasmic reticulum (ER) associated with a decrease of the glucose-6-phosphatase activity. This situation first affects the centrolobular hepatocytes, enhancing the degree of liver lobule heterogeneity. This experimental model was used for isolation and further subfractionation of hepatocytes on Ficoll density gradients, as described in the preceding paper. Profiles of protein, DNA, RNA, glycogen, phosphorylase, and glucose-6-phosphatase were determined all along the gradient. Two liver cell populations were distinguished: (a) light hepatocytes (mean density 1.10) present the same morphological characteristics as centrolobular cells, i.e., an abundant smooth ER composed of tubular elements, numerous small mitochondria, and few glycogen particles; (b) heavy hepatocytes (mean density 1.14) are characterized by large and compact glycogen areas and prominent rough endoplasmic cisternae, as are the perilobular cells. After incubation in the Wachstein-Meisel medium, Centrolobular hepatocytes exhibit dispersed reaction sites of glucose-6-phosphatase activity, whereas perilobular cells present a continuous and intense reaction. Morphometric determinations were carried out for both cell populations. Centrolobular PB hepatocytes are considerably enlarged (mean diameter: 23.7 mum); perilobular hepatocytes have a significantly smaller mean diameter of 19.2 mum, which is close to the values of control liver cells.