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Biochem J. 1991 Nov 15;280 ( Pt 1):105-9.

Regulation of cell volume in the perfused rat liver by hormones.

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Medizinische Universitätsklinik, Freiburg, Federal Republic of Germany.


The effect of hormones on cell volume was studied in isolated perfused rat liver by assessing the intracellular water space as the difference between a [3H]inulin- and a [14C]urea-accessible space. The intracellular water space (control value 559 +/- 7 microliters/g of liver; n = 88) increased on addition of insulin (35 nM) or phenylephrine (5 microM) by 12 or 8% respectively, whereas it decreased with cyclic AMP (cAMP; 50 microM), glucagon (100 nM) or adenosine (50 microM) by 9, 13 or 6% respectively. Both insulin and glucagon exerted half-maximal effects on cell volume and cellular K+ balance at hormone concentrations found physiologically in the portal vein. Adenosine-induced cell shrinkage was explained by a net K+ release from the liver. Phenylephrine (5 microM) led to cell swelling by about 8%, which was additive to insulin-induced swelling. Extracellular ATP (20 microM) induced cell shrinkage by about 6%; this was additive to adenosine-induced shrinkage. Vasopressin (15 nM) did not appreciably change cell volume, but induced marked cell shrinkage when glucagon or cAMP was present. Insulin- and phenylephrine-induced cell swelling was counteracted by cAMP. Hormone-induced changes of intracellular water space could sufficiently explain accompanying liver mass changes induced by glucagon, cAMP, adenosine or vasopressin, but not those by phenylephrine and extracellular ATP. The data show that liver cell volume is subject to hormonal regulation, in part owing to modification of cellular K+ balance. Glucagon- and insulin-induced cell volume changes occur already in the presence of physiological hormone concentrations. The effects of Ca2(+)-mobilizing hormones on cell volume are not uniform. In view of the recently established role of cell volume changes in modulating liver cell function, the present findings open a new perspective on the mechanisms of hormone action in liver, underlining our previous hypothesis that cell volume changes may represent a 'second messenger' of hormone action.

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