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Hepatology. 1996 Jun;23(6):1602-7.

Effect of tumor necrosis factor alpha on intrahepatic bile duct epithelial cell of rat liver.

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  • 1Third Department of Internal Medicine, Tohoku University School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan.


Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), which is primarily produced by macrophages, is a cytokine with various biological activities. Macrophage infiltration often accompanies experimental cholangitis in rats, and chronic cholangitis in humans. The pathophysiologic significance of TNF-alpha in cholangitis is not known. We used cultured, polarized intrahepatic bile duct epithelial cells (IBDECs) from rat liver to determine whether TNF-alpha directly affects the organization of IBDEC monolayers. The addition of recombinant TNF-alpha (rTNF-alpha) to culture media at concentrations from 10 to 200 U/mL lacked cytotoxicity to the IBDECs as judged by trypan blue exclusion and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release. rTNF-alpha transiently reduced transepithelial electrical resistance in a dose-dependent manner. During this decrease in resistance, the cellular tight junctions became leaky, allowing horseradish peroxidase (HRP) penetration. rTNF-alpha, at concentrations up to 200 U/mL, did not detach IBDECs from Matrigel, an artificial basement membrane. Electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry for F-actin showed a well-preserved cell structure and organization of IBDECs. Results suggest that TNF-alpha is nontoxic to IBDECs, and that it increases the permeability of tight junctions. TNF-alpha may thus disturb the barrier function of the bile duct.

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