Background & aims: The leukotrienes C(4)/D(4)/E(4) (cysteinyl-LTs) are 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO)-derived eicosanoids with potent vasoconstrictor, proliferative, and profibrogenic properties that may participate in key pathophysiologic events in liver cirrhosis. We examined the cysteinyl-LT biosynthetic pathway in liver tissue and purified liver cells isolated from rats with carbon tetrachloride-induced cirrhosis, and assessed the vasoactive properties of LTD(4) in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) and anesthetized rats.
Methods & results: Liver homogenates from cirrhotic rats had increased 5-LO mRNA and cysteinyl-LT content, as determined by Northern blot and enzyme immunoassay, respectively. In isolated rat liver cells, 5-LO mRNA expression was found to be restricted to Kupffer cells. However, among the liver cells (i.e., hepatocytes, Kupffer cells, HSCs, and sinusoidal endothelial cells), hepatocytes exhibited the highest ability to generate cysteinyl-LTs from the unstable intermediate LTA(4). Hepatocytes from cirrhotic rats showed an enhanced baseline generation of cysteinyl-LTs, but their ability to synthesize cysteinyl-LTs from exogenous LTA(4) was found to be similar to that of hepatocytes from normal animals. Both LTD(4) and hepatocyte-conditioned medium increased intracellular Ca(2+) concentration and induced contraction in HSCs, suggesting that hepatocyte-derived cysteinyl-LTs could act in a paracrine fashion on nearby nonparenchymal liver cells. The relevance of these in vitro findings was further established in vivo by the observation that LTD(4) significantly increased portal pressure in anesthetized rats.
Conclusions: These data suggest a role for hepatocyte-derived cysteinyl-LTs in mediating hepatic vascular tone abnormalities in cirrhosis.