Liver transplantation : official publication of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the International Liver Transplantation Society

Elevated sensitivity of macrosteatotic hepatocytes to hypoxia/reoxygenation stress is reversed by a novel defatting protocol.

PMID 24802973


Macrosteatotic livers exhibit elevated intrahepatic triglyceride (TG) levels in the form of large lipid droplets (LDs), reduced adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels, and elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, and this contributes to their elevated sensitivity to ischemia/reperfusion injury during transplantation. Reducing macrosteatosis in living donors through dieting has been shown to improve transplant outcomes. Accomplishing the same feat for deceased donor grafts would require ex vivo exposure to potent defatting agents. Here we used a rat hepatocyte culture system exhibiting a macrosteatotic LD morphology, elevated TG levels, and an elevated sensitivity to hypoxia/reoxygenation (H/R) to test for such agents and ameliorate H/R sensitivity. Macrosteatotic hepatocyte preconditioning for 48 hours with a defatting cocktail that was previously developed to promote TG catabolism reduced the number of macrosteatotic LDs and intracellular TG levels by 82% and 27%, respectively, but it did not ameliorate sensitivity to H/R. Supplementation of this cocktail with l-carnitine, together with hyperoxic exposure, yielded a similar reduction in the number of macrosteatotic LDs and a 57% reduction in intrahepatic TG storage, likely by increasing the supply of acetyl coenzyme A to mitochondria, as indicated by a 70% increase in ketone body secretion. Furthermore, this treatment reduced ROS levels by 32%, increased ATP levels by 27% (to levels near those of lean controls), and completely abolished H/R sensitivity as indicated by approximately 85% viability after H/R and the reduction of cytosolic lactate dehydrogenase release to levels seen in lean controls. Cultures maintained for 48 hours after H/R were approximately 83% viable and exhibited superior urea secretion and bile canalicular transport in comparison with untreated macrosteatotic cultures. In conclusion, these findings show that the elevated sensitivity of macrosteatotic hepatocytes to H/R can be overcome by defatting agents, and they suggest a possible route for the recovery of discarded macrosteatotic grafts.