Parenchymal and non-parenchymal cells were isolated from the livers of control, starved, Zn2+-injected and Cd2+-injected rats. Parenchymal cells were prepared by differential centrifugation after perfusion of the liver with collagenase. Non-parenchymal cells were separated from parenchymal cells by unit-gravity sedimentation and differential centrifugation. Yields of 2 × 10(8) non-parenchymal cells with greater than 95% viability and less than 0.2% contamination with parenchymal cells were obtained without exposing cells to Pronase. Metallothioneins-I and -II were identified in parenchymal cells and non-parenchymal cells from Zn2+-treated rats. The metallothionein contents of parenchymal cells, non-parenchymal cells and intact liver were quantified by a competitive 203Hg-binding assay. Administration of heavy-metal salts significantly increased the metallothionein content of both cell populations, although the concentration of the protein was approx. 2.5-fold greater in parenchymal cells than in non-parenchymal cells. Overnight starvation increased the metallothionein content of parenchymal cells without altering that of non-parenchymal cells. The potential significance of this differential response by different liver cell types with regard to the influence of Zn2+ on stress-mediated alterations in hepatic metabolism is discussed.

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