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Med Hypotheses. 2003 Apr;60(4):515-9.

A model of dual circulation in liver acini with hypoxia regulated adenosine secretion.

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Department of Physiology, Osijek Medical Faculty, University JJ Strossmayer, Osijek, Croatia.


It was postulated by W.W. Lautt that the hepatic artery flow compensation for changes in portal vein flow (the 'hepatic arterial buffer response') is regulated through the portal blood washout of adenosine from the small fluid compartment that surrounds the hepatic arterial resistance vessels. It is presumed that the adenosine secretion there is constant and independent of oxygen supply or liver demand. It was reported by others that liver secretes variable quantities of adenosine and that secretion is related to the level of liver hypoxia. This paper is an attempt to describe a model of acinar circulation without sources of constant adenosine secretion. The presented model is based on the fact that portal blood enters acinar space near the vascular stalk in the zone 1, while most of the arterial branches empty one-third from the interlobular septa, at the beginning of the zone 2, just downstream from the zone 1. Another important characteristic of liver architecture is that near 5/9 of lobular volume is in the zone 1. Liver cells in zone 1 are well oxygenated by the portal blood and they have low adenosine secretion that might seem almost constant. Since most arterial branches empty more peripherally, the zone 1 normally does not depend on the arterial circuit and most of arterial branches are governed by the adenosine secretion from the upstream zone 1. Low portal flow, would increase adenosine secretion from the zone 1 and thus dilate numerous downstream arterial resistance vessels. An increased flow from these arterial vessels would compensate any decrease in the portal flow. Zones 2 and 3 probably have higher adenosine secretion rates since the oxygenation depends on the amount of added arterial blood and on the liver cell metabolism. Some of the arterial branches in those zones are probably open all the time, preserving them zones from hypoxic injury. Since the main point for arterial inflow is concentrated downstream from the zone 1, in cases of low portal pressures, or elevated upstream resistance, some of the arterial blood might leave the acinus in retrograde direction via the portal branch and enter some other acinus as a part of portal blood. These arterio-portal communications might be important in cases of low or none portal flow when zone 1 is in hypoxia. In the 3D liver space with tightly packed acini, very complex and ever-changing patterns of combined antegrade and retrograde flows can be expected.

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