Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are the major site of retinol (ROH) metabolism and storage. GRX is a permanent murine myofibroblastic cell line, derived from HSCs, which can be induced to display the fat-storing phenotype by treatment with retinoids. Little is known about hepatic or serum homeostasis of beta-carotene and retinoic acid (RA), although the direct biogenesis of RA from beta-carotene has been described in enterocytes. The aim of this study was to identify the uptake, metabolism, storage, and release of beta-carotene in HSCs. GRX cells were plated in 25 cm(2) tissue culture flasks, treated during 10 days with 3 micromol/L beta-carotene and subsequently transferred into the standard culture medium. beta-Carotene induced a full cell conversion into the fat-storing phenotype after 10 days. The total cell extracts, cell fractions, and culture medium were analyzed by reverse phase high-performance liquid chromatography for beta-carotene and retinoids. Cells accumulated 27.48 +/- 6.5 pmol/L beta-carotene/10(6) cells, but could not convert it to ROH nor produced retinyl esters (RE). beta-Carotene was directly converted to RA, which was found in total cell extracts and in the nuclear fraction (10.15 +/- 1.23 pmol/L/10(6) cells), promoting the phenotype conversion. After 24-h chase, cells contained 20.15 +/- 1.12 pmol/L beta-carotene/10(6) cells and steadily released beta-carotene into the medium (6.69 +/- 1.75 pmol/ml). We conclude that HSC are the site of the liver beta-carotene storage and release, which can be used for RA production as well as for maintenance of the homeostasis of circulating carotenoids in periods of low dietary uptake.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.