Apoptosis in the human liver during allograft rejection and end-stage liver disease

S C Afford, S Hubscher, A J Strain, J M Neuberger, David Adams

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The contribution of apoptosis (programmed cell death) to cellular damage in human liver disease is unknown. Using the in situ DNA end labelling method (ISEL), evidence was sought of programmed cell death (PCD) in liver tissue from patients with various liver diseases. In particular, the study aimed to determine whether PCD is involved in either the loss of interlobular bile ducts (vanishing bile duct syndrome--VBDS) or the perivenular hepatocyte drop-out, both of which are characteristic of irreversible graft rejection. Large numbers of apoptotic hepatocytes were found in perivenular areas in tissues taken from patients with chronic graft rejection. Significant hepatocyte apoptosis, was not seen in long-term stable allografts, primary biliary cirrhosis, cholestasis, paracetamol-induced fulminant hepatic failure, or fulminant hepatic failure of indeterminate origin (non-A, non-B, non-C hepatitis). Bile ducts rarely stained positively, but mononuclear cells present in the post-transplant tissues were frequently positive, showing nuclear or cytoplasmic staining. The presence of cytoplasmic staining suggested that some mononuclear cells had ingested apoptotic DNA from other cellular sources. PCD may thus contribute to the perivenular hepatocyte loss in chronic rejection. The absence of ductular epithelial cell staining suggests that PCD is not involved significantly in the bile duct loss of VBDS. Furthermore, apoptosis of mononuclear cells implies that PCD may be involved in regulating the inflammatory cell infiltration of graft rejection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-80
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pathology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1995


  • Apoptosis
  • Bile Ducts, Intrahepatic
  • Coloring Agents
  • Graft Rejection
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear
  • Liver
  • Liver Diseases
  • Liver Transplantation


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