Background: Morphological and functional changes to sinusoidal endothelial cells mediated by soluble factors released from activated Kupffer cells, including cytokines, are considered pivotal events in ischemia/reperfusion injury (IRI) to liver grafts. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is an endothelial cell-specific cytokine with potent pro-inflammatory and mitogenic effects. We investigated the possible role of VEGF in IRI to liver grafts using a syngeneic rat orthotopic liver transplantation model.
Methods: Transplantation was performed in Lewis rats using livers preserved for various periods of time (24-48 hr) in University of Wisconsin solution at 4 degrees C. Systemic VEGF levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Intrahepatic VEGF expression was analyzed by Northern blotting and in situ hybridization. The effects of anti-VEGF neutralizing antibody treatment on the extent of IRI were assessed by measuring liver function tests, lipid peroxidation, and metalloproteinase activity.
Results/conclusion: VEGF is expressed and released in a biphasic pattern during the early postoperative period after liver transplantation. Anti-VEGF antibody treatment, administered during reperfusion, decreased the degree of damage, suggesting that VEGF may have a role in IRI to liver grafts.