In order to study particle phagocytosis and glycogenolysis simultaneously, this study was designed to develop a direct-read-out method to monitor Kupffer-cell function continuously, based on the uptake of colloidal carbon by the isolated perfused rat liver. Livers were perfused for 20 min with Krebs-Henseleit buffer saturated with O2/CO2 (19:1). Colloidal carbon (1-2 mg/ml) was added to the buffer, and absorbance of carbon was monitored continuously at 623 nm in the effluent perfusate. Since colloidal-carbon uptake was proportional to A623, rates of uptake were determined from the influent minus effluent concentration difference, the flow rate and the liver wet weight. Rates of colloidal-carbon uptake were 50-200 mg/h per g and were proportional to the concentration of carbon infused. Data from light-microscopy and cell-separation studies demonstrated that carbon was taken up exclusively by non-parenchymal cells and predominantly by Kupffer cells. Further, the amount of colloidal carbon detected histologically in non-parenchymal cells increased as the concentration of colloidal carbon in the perfusate was elevated. When Kupffer cells were activated or inhibited by treatment with endotoxin or methyl palmitate, carbon uptake was increased or decreased respectively. Taken together, these results indicate that Kupffer-cell function can be monitored continuously in a living organ. This new method was utilized to compare the time course of phagocytosis of carbon by Kupffer cells and carbohydrate output by parenchymal cells. Carbohydrate output increased rapidly by 69 +/- 9 mumol per g within 2-4 min after addition of carbon and returned to basal values within 12-16 min. However, carbon uptake by the liver did not reach maximal rates until about 15 min. Infusion of a cyclo-oxygenase inhibitor, aspirin (10 mM), caused a progressive decrease in carbohydrate output and blocked the stimulation by carbon completely. Aspirin neither altered rates of carbon uptake nor prevented stimulation of carbohydrate release by addition of N2-saturated buffer. The data from these experiments are consistent with the hypothesis that output of mediators by Kupffer cells, presumably prostaglandin D2 and E2, occurs transiently as Kupffer cells begin to phagocytose foreign particles in the intact organ, a process which continues at high rates for hours.

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