To establish the process by which transplanted cells integrate into the liver parenchyma, we used dipeptidyl peptidase IV-deficient F344 rats as hosts. On intrasplenic injection, transplanted hepatocytes immediately entered liver sinusoids, along with attenuation of portal vein radicles on angiography. However, a large fraction of transplanted cells (>70%) was rapidly cleared from portal spaces by phagocyte/macrophage responses. On the other hand, transplanted hepatocytes entering the hepatic sinusoids showed superior survival. These cells translocated from sinusoids into liver plates between 16 and 20 hours after transplantation, during which electron microscopy showed disruption of the sinusoidal endothelium. Interestingly, production of vascular endothelial growth factor was observed in hepatocytes before endothelial disruptions. Portal hypertension and angiographic changes resulting from cell transplantation resolved promptly. Integration of transplanted hepatocytes in the liver parenchyma required cell membrane regenesis, with hybrid gap junctions and bile canaliculi forming over 3 to 7 days after cell transplantation. We propose that strategies to deposit cells into distal hepatic sinusoids, to disrupt sinusoidal endothelium for facilitating cell entry into liver plates, and to accelerate cell integrations into liver parenchyma will advance applications of hepatocyte transplantation.
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