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Physiol Rev. 1989 Jul;69(3):708-64.

Functional specialization of different hepatocyte populations.

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Institut für Biochemie, Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen, Federal Republic of Germany.


Hepatocytes from the periportal (afferent) and perivenous (efferent) zones of the liver parenchyma differ in their enzyme content and subcellular structures and thus have different metabolic capacities. Therefore the model of metabolic zonation proposes a functional specialization for the two zones: 1) oxidative energy metabolism with beta-oxidation, amino acid catabolism, ureagenesis, gluconeogenesis for the synthesis of both glucose and glycogen, cholesterol synthesis, bile formation, and protective metabolism are predominantly located in the periportal zone; 2) glycolysis, glycogen synthesis from glucose, liponeogenesis, ketogenesis, glutamine formation, and xenobiotic metabolism are preferentially situated in the perivenous zone. The input of humoral and nervous signals into the two zones is different. During passage of blood through the liver acinus, concentration gradients of oxygen, substrates, and hormones are established; the nerve densities in the two zones seem to be different. The different expression of the genome in upstream and downstream hepatocytes can be caused among other factors by the zonal gradients in oxygen and hormone concentrations. The functional specialization of the different hepatocyte populations is especially well documented for carbohydrate, amino acid, ammonia, and xenobiotic metabolism as well as for bile formation by a number of different approaches. Zonal flux differences were calculated from enzyme and metabolite distributions measured in vivo. They were observed in periportal- and perivenous-like hepatocytes in cell culture and in hepatocyte populations enriched in periportal and perivenous cells. They were detected also during ortho-and retrograde liver perfusion and finally by noninvasive techniques, using surface micro-light guides and miniature oxygen electrodes. The peculiar zonal hepatotoxicity of many xenobiotics can be explained at least in part by the enzymatic and fine-structural hepatocellular heterogeneity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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