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Enzyme. 1992;46(1-3):94-138.

Hepatocyte heterogeneity in bile formation and hepatobiliary transport of drugs.

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Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University Center for Pharmacy, Groningen, The Netherlands.


In the past two decades many studies have been devoted to the involvement of the periportal (zone-1) and perivenous (zone-3) hepatocytes in bile formation and hepatobiliary transport of endogenous and exogenous compounds. It became clear that such a heterogeneity in transport function can, in principle, be due to the different localization of the cells in the acinus with respect to the incoming blood, to intrinsic differences between the cells or to both. In this review we first discuss the techniques used to study hepatocyte heterogeneity in hepatobiliary transport function. Combinations of such techniques can be used to discriminate between cellular heterogeneity due to acinar localization as opposed to intrinsic differences. These techniques include: normal and retrograde perfusions of isolated perfused livers; autoradiographic, fluorimetric and histochemical localization of injected substrates; separation of isolated hepatocytes into fractions enriched in periportal and perivenous cells; measurements of fluorescent surface signals with microlight guides; selective zonal toxicity, and pharmacokinetic modelling and analysis. Subsequently, for each of the rate-limiting steps in the hepatobiliary transport of organic compounds, the basic mechanisms are summarized and the available knowledge on the involvement of the cells from the various zones in these transport steps is discussed. The available literature data indicate that heterogeneity in transport function is often due to the localization of the cells in the acinus: the periportal cells are the first to come into contact with the portal blood and are thus exposed to the highest substrate concentration. Consequently they obtain the most prominent task in further disposition of the particular compound. It follows that the extent of involvement of the perivenous cells in drug disposition is implicitly determined by the activity of the periportal cells. Because of the potential saturation of elimination processes in the periportal cells, the involvement of perivenous cells may vary with the input concentration. In addition, real intrinsic differences have been established in the hepatobiliary transport of some substrates. These are probably based on differences in the cellular content of carrier- and receptor-binding and/or metabolizing proteins. In some cases these intrinsic differences may be secondary to existing sinusoidal gradients of endogenous compounds, such as O2, amino acids, bile acids or monosaccharides. Yet, data on the heterogeneity of hepatocytes in the various transport steps are far from complete or are even totally lacking, especially for human liver. A multi-experimental approach and advanced technology will be needed in the future to gain more insight into the acinar organization of bile formation and hepatobiliary transport of drugs in the human.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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