Cytochemical and electron microscopic investigations of neoplastic nodules induced in the rat liver by nitrosomorpholine or thioacetamide show that most neoplastic nodules are comparised of a rather heterogeneous cell population. At least four different types of altered hepatocytes can be distinguished: (a) “clear” glycogen storage cells with a dislocation and relative reduction of the granular endoplasmic reticulum; (b) “acidophilic” glycogen storage cells with a hypertrophy of the agranular endoplasmic reticulum; (c) fat-storing cells; and (d) basophilic cells poor in glycogen and rich in ribosomes. In addition, there are diverse intermediate cell types. The cytochemically demonstrable activity of glucose-6-phosphatase is reduced in most neoplastic nodules, but it may also be normal or even increased. The clear and the acidophilic cells precede the development of the neoplastic nodules by weeks and months. They usually form foci which are taken to be preneoplastic lesions. During the formation of neoplastic nodules and hepatocellular carcinomas originating from such foci the glycogen of the clear and the acidophilic cells is progressively reduced, whereas the number of ribosomes (basophilia) increases. This process, which may be accompanied by a transitory accumulation of fat, leads to the evolution of basophilic carcinoma cells. We conclude from these observations that the majority of the neoplastic nodules consist of a mixture of precancerous, definitely cancerous, and diverse intermediate cells. Neoplastic nodules in which basophilic cells prevail may already be carcinomas. Although the neoplastic nodules seem to be a frequent precursor of hepatocellular carcinomas, the latter may also develop without going through the nodule stage.


Presented at the Conference “Early Lesions and the Development of Epithelial Cancer,” October 21 to 23, 1975, Bethesda, Md.

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