In order to investigate the early cellular changes in liver associated with furan cholangiocarcinogenesis, young adult male Fischer 344 rats were administered furan by gavage once a day, 5 days a wk for 2 to 3 wk at doses ranging from 15 to 60 mg/kg of body weight per day. The most conspicuous feature observed in the liver of animals receiving the higher doses of furan was a rapidly developed cholangiofibrosis characterized by the presence of bile ductular hyperplasia, intestinal metaplasia, and fibrosis. Moreover, this lesion was found to be almost exclusively localized to the caudate liver lobe, which by morphometric analysis was further determined to be largely replaced by cholangiofibrotic tissue. Both the hyperplastic bile ductular epithelial cells and the intestinal-like epithelial cells in these areas selectively exhibited a strongly positive immunohistochemical staining for cytokeratin 19 and were supported by well-developed basement membranes enriched in both laminin and type IV collagen. However, in contrast to the hyperplastic bile ductules, electron microscopy of the metaplastic intestinal glands revealed them to be composed mostly of columnar epithelial cells with well-developed striated borders, less numerous mucin-secreting goblet cells, and occasional neuroendocrine-like cells, thus closely resembling in their cellular composition that of intestinal mucosa. These metaplastic glands also showed a more heterogeneous pattern of staining for both γ-glutamyl transpeptidase and the placental form of glutathione S-transferase than did the hyperplastic bile ductules. At the 60-mg/kg/day furan dose, cholangiolar-like structures composed of biliary epithelial cells and ductular hepatocytic cells at different stages of morphological differentiation were also observed. Phenotypically, the biliary epithelial and “ductular hepatocytes” of these cholangioles shared a common basement membrane containing laminin and type IV collagen, as well as a luminal plasma membrane γ-glutamyl transpeptidase. On the other hand, only the biliary epithelial cells of the newly appearing mixed cell cholangioles stained positive for cytokeratin 19. Interestingly, unlike hepatocarcinogen-induced oval cells, α-fetoprotein expression was not detected in any of the cell types comprising the furan-induced cholangiofibrotic tissue. These results support a novel in vivo model for investigating cell lineages in the development in liver of intestinal metaplasia, “ductular hepatocytes,” and cholangiofibrosis in relation to intrahepatic cholangiocarcinogenesis.


This publication was supported by USPHS Grant 2 RO1 CA 39225 to A. E. S. from the National Cancer Institute. Presented in part at the 75th Annual Meeting of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, April 1991, Atlanta, GA (25).

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