We have established, in vivo, an increase in liver mass and hepatocyte volume after a single intraperitoneal administration, to fasted rats, of Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide (0127:B8) at 3 mg/kg. The phenomenon was time- and dose-dependent and could be prevented by treatment with polyclonal antiserum against tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) before the endotoxin injection. Endotoxin caused an increase of 26% in the hepatic mass compared with fasted controls at 24 h. An increase of 27% in the hepatic water content underlay the altered hepatic mass which could not be accounted for by a change in the volume of hepatic blood and/or interstitial fluid (measured in vivo), suggesting an expansion in the hepatocellular volume. This is supported by an increase of 25% in the K+ content of the endotoxic livers. Morphometric study confirmed a 15% increase in hepatocyte volume after endotoxin administration. The data are discussed in the light of possible metabolic effects of increased hepatocyte volume.

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