Periportal and perivenous parenchymal cells were isolated by the digitonin-pulse perfusion method. The digitonin-pulse perfusion was shown to lead to selective lysis of the correct zone with a straight and sharp border of two to three cells. The mean ratios of alanine aminotransferase activity (a marker for periportal parenchymal cells) and glutamine synthetase activity (a perivenous marker) of periportal to perivenous parenchymal cells were 1.76 and 0.025 respectively. Cells were incubated in vitro with 125I-asialo-orosomucoid (ASOR), 125I-trypsin-activated alpha 2-macroglobulin (alpha 2M-T) or 125I-beta-migrating very-low-density lipoprotein (beta-VLDL), in order to determine the zonal distribution of the asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGPr), the alpha 2-macroglobulin receptor/low-density-lipoprotein receptor-related protein (alpha 2Mr/LRP) and the lipoprotein-remnant receptor, respectively. Maximum binding capacity for 125I-ASOR on parenchymal cells showed a periportal/perivenous ratio of 0.70. The periportal/perivenous ratio of Bmax. values of binding of 125I-alpha 2M-T to parenchymal cells was 1.51. The Bmax. values of binding of 125I-beta-VLDL, however, were about equal for both cell populations. It is concluded that the maximum binding capacity of the ASGPr on isolated periportal parenchymal cells is 0.70 times that of perivenous parenchymal cells. The 1.51-fold higher expression of the alpha 2Mr/LRP on periportal cells, compared with perivenous parenchymal cells, indicates a zonal specialization for the uptake of the suggested multiple ligands. In contrast, the observed homogeneous distribution of the lipoprotein-remnant receptor is in accordance with the suggestion that lipoprotein remnants bind to a specific receptor, which is different from the alpha 2Mr/LRP. The zonal heterogeneity in the expression of receptors suggests that receptor-dependent uptake pathways are under zonal control, leading to intrahepatic heterogeneity in the removal of ligands from the blood circulation.

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