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J Hepatol. 1999 Dec;31(6):1069-74.

Liver regeneration in response to partial hepatectomy in rats treated with retrorsine: a kinetic study.

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  • 1Istituto di Patologia Sperimentale, Universit√† di Cagliari, Italy.



We have designed an experimental model in which transplantation of normal hepatocytes into rats previously treated with retrorsine (a naturally-occurring pyrrolizidine alkaloid) results in near-complete replacement of the recipient liver by donor-derived cells. Two/thirds partial hepatectomy was found to be essential for this process to occur. To probe this finding, in the present study we describe the kinetics of liver regeneration in response to partial hepatectomy in rats given retrorsine.


Six-weeks-old male Fisher 344 rats received retrorsine (2 injections of 30 mg/kg each, i.p., 2 weeks apart), or the vehicle. Four weeks after the last injection, partial hepatectomy was performed and rats were killed at 1, 2, 3, 6, and 15 days thereafter.


At time zero, i.e. prior to partial hepatectomy, liver weight and total liver DNA content were significantly lower in retrorsine-treated animals compared to controls (DNA content: 19.2+/-1.7 vs. 25.7+/-1.1 mg/liver). Diffuse megalocytosis (enlarged hepatocytes) was present in the group exposed to retrorsine. By day 3 post-partial hepatectomy liver DNA content in control animals had more than doubled compared to day 1 values (20.2+/-1.5 vs. 8.8+/-1.2), while very little increase was seen in retrorsine-treated rats at the same time points (7.6+/-0.4 vs. 6.1+/-0.2). At 2 weeks after partial hepatectomy, total DNA content returned close to normal levels in the control group (26.9+/-1.0 mg/liver); however, the value was still very low in animals receiving retrorsine (9.1+/-0.7). Data on BrdU labeling were consistent with this pattern and indicated that DNA synthesis following partial hepatectomy was largely inhibited in the retrorsine group. Similarly, no mitotic response was observed in hepatocytes following partial hepatectomy in animals exposed to retrorsine.


These results clearly indicate that retrorsine exerts a strong and persistent cell cycle block on hepatocyte proliferation. Further, these results are in agreement with the hypothesis that selective proliferation of transplanted hepatocytes in retrorsine-treated animals is dependent, at least in part, on the persistent cell cycle block imposed by the alkaloid on endogenous parenchymal cells.

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