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Comput Math Methods Med. 2011;2011:185845. doi: 10.1155/2011/185845. Epub 2011 Mar 28.

Inbuilt mechanisms for overcoming functional problems inherent in hepatic microlobular structure.

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Centre for Diabetes, Bart's and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Blizard Institute for Cell and Molecular Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, Newark Street, London E1 2AT, UK.


The spherical anatomy of human and rat liver lobules implies that more central cells have less time to carry out their function than more peripherally located cells because blood flows past them more rapidly. This problem could be overcome if more centrilobular cells could operate at higher temperatures than periportal cells. This study presents evidence for such a temperature gradient. Firstly, we use mathematical modelling to demonstrate that temperature increases towards the centre of the lobule. Secondly, we examine the distribution of a heat-generating protein and of a heat-sensitive protein across the rat and human liver lobules. Double-antibody staining of healthy liver from rat and human was used for visual scoring and for automated histomorphometric quantitation of the localisation of uncoupling protein-2 (known to generate heat) and of the transient receptor potential-v4 protein (known as a highly temperature-sensitive membrane protein). Both these proteins were found to be located predominantly in the centrilobular region of liver lobules. These findings support the suggestion that temperature gradients across the liver lobule may have evolved as a solution to the problem of reduced contact time between blood and cells at the centre as compared to the periphery of mammalian liver lobules.

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