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PLoS One. 2017 Sep 21;12(9):e0184161. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184161. eCollection 2017.

Pathological alterations in liver injury following congestive heart failure induced by volume overload in rats.

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Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Charité University Berlin, Campus Virchow Klinikum and Campus Charité Mitte, Berlin, Germany.
Department of Anatomy, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Munich, Germany.


Heart failure has emerged as a disease with significant public health implications. Following progression of heart failure, heart and liver dysfunction are frequently combined in hospitalized patients leading to increased morbidity and mortality. Here, we investigated the underlying pathological alterations in liver injury following heart failure. Heart failure was induced using a modified infrarenal aortocaval fistula (ACF) in male Wistar rats. Sham operated and ACF rats were compared for their morphometric and hemodynamic data, for histopathological and ultrastructural changes in the liver as well as differences in the expression of apoptotic factors. ACF-induced heart failure is associated with light microscopic signs of apparent congestion of blood vessels, increased apoptosis and breakdown of hepatocytes and inflammatory cell inifltration were observed. The glycogen content depletion associated with the increased hepatic fibrosis, lipid globule formation was observed in ACF rats. Moreover, cytoplasmic organelles are no longer distinguishable in many ACF hepatocytes with degenerated fragmented rough endoplasmic reticulum, shrunken mitochondria and heavy cytoplasm vacuolization. ACF is associated with the upregulation of the hepatic TUNEL-positive cells and proapoptotic factor Bax protein concomitant with the mitochondrial leakage of cytochrome C into the cell cytoplasm and the transfer of activated caspase 3 from the cytoplasm into the nucleus indicating intrinsic apoptotic events. Taken together, the results demonstrate that ACF-induced congestive heart failure causes liver injury which results in hepatocellular apoptotic cell death mediated by the intrinsic pathway of mitochondrial cytochrome C leakage and subsequent transfer of activated caspase 3 into to the nucleus to initiate overt DNA fragmentation and cell death.

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