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Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2012 Oct;295(10):1660-8. doi: 10.1002/ar.22555. Epub 2012 Aug 21.

Accumulation of vitamin A in the hepatic stellate cell of arctic top predators.

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Department of Cell Biology and Morphology, Akita University Graduate School of Medicine, Akita 010-8543, Japan.


We performed a systematic characterization of the hepatic vitamin A storage in mammals and birds of the Svalbard Archipelago and Greenland. The liver of top predators, including polar bear, Arctic fox, bearded seal, and glaucous gull, contained about 10-20 times more vitamin A than the liver of all other arctic animals studied, as well as their genetically related continental top predators. The values are also high compared to normal human and experimental animals like mouse and rat. This massive amount of hepatic vitamin A was located in large autofluorescent lipid droplets in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs; also called vitamin A-storing cells, lipocytes, interstitial cells, fat-storing cells, or Ito cells). The droplets made up most of the cells' cytoplasm. The development of such an efficient vitamin A-storing mechanism in HSCs may have contributed to the survival of top predators in the extreme environment of the arctic. These animals demonstrated no signs of hypervitaminosis A. We suggest that HSCs have capacity to take-up and store large amounts of vitamin A, which may play a pivotal role in maintenance of the food web, food chain, biodiversity, and eventually ecology of the arctic.

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