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Am J Pathol. 1996 Feb;148(2):485-95.

Tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced apoptosis in hepatocytes in long-term culture.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey 17033, USA.


Apoptosis occurs naturally in the liver and increases in specific pathogenic processes. We previously described the use of a chemically defined medium supplemented with epidermal growth factor and dimethylsulfoxide to maintain rat hepatocytes in a highly differentiated state for more than 30 days (long-term culture). In this study, we showed that hepatocytes in long-term dimethylsulfoxide culture have definite advantages over using cells in short-term culture (cells in culture for 2 to 4 days) to study apoptosis. We demonstrated that treatment with tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha induced apoptosis (detected morphologically and by formation of an oligonucleosomal DNA ladder) only in hepatocytes that had been subjected to dimethylsulfoxide removal. Neither treatment with TNF-alpha alone or dimethylsulfoxide removal alone induced apoptosis. Apoptosis could be induced by concentrations as low as 500 U of TNF-alpha/ml. Although a DNA ladder was not detected by 12 hours after TNF-alpha treatment, it was easily identified by 24 hours. We conclude that this system can be used 1) to examine the underlying mechanism by which TNF-alpha causes apoptosis in hepatocytes and 2) to study induction of apoptosis in hepatocytes by other agents.

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