Functional and morphological characterization of cultures of Kupffer cells and liver endothelial cells prepared by means of density separation in Percoll, and selective substrate adherence

Cell Tissue Res. 1985;241(3):639-49. doi: 10.1007/BF00214586.


This paper presents a study on the structure and function of Kupffer cells (KC) and liver endothelial cells (LEC) isolated by a simple and rapid technique involving 1) perfusion of the liver with collagenase; 2) cell separation by means of density centrifugation in Percoll; and 3) cell culture, taking advantage of the fact that KC and LEC differ in their preferences for growth substrate. The KC, which attach and spread under serum-free conditions on surfaces of glass or plastic during the first 15 min in culture exhibit a typical macrophage-like morphology including membrane ruffling and a heterogenous content of vacuoles. Moreover, these cells express (a) Fc receptors (FcR) for binding and phagocytosis of erythrocytes covered with immune globulin G (E-IgG), and (b) complement receptors (CR) for binding and serum dependent phagocytosis of erythrocytes covered with either human C3b or mouse inactivated C3b (iC3b). The cells also bind fluid phase fluoresceinated C3b. Approximately 30% of the KC express immune response-associated (Ia)-antigens. The LEC attach and spread on fibronectin coated surfaces, but not on glass or plastic surfaces, during the first two hours in culture with or without serum, and are morphologically distinct from KC. Cultured LEC are well spread out with no membrane ruffling and with numerous large vesicles surrounding the regularly shaped nucleus. These cells bind, but do not ingest E-IgG via the FcR, but no binding of fluid phase C3b or particle fixed C3b or iC3b can be observed. Incubation of LEC with fluorescein amine conjugates of ovalbumin or formaldehyde treated serum albumin, but not with fluoresceinated native serum albumin, results in accumulation of fluorescence specifically localized in the large perinuclear vesicles. Neither KC nor any other cell types tested have the ability to accumulate fluorescence upon incubation with these compounds. Ia-antigens are not present on the LEC. Cytochemical demonstration of unspecific esterase, acid phosphatase, and peroxidase reveals different patterns and intensities of staining in KC as compared to LEC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Cell Separation / methods
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Centrifugation, Density Gradient / methods
  • Endothelium / cytology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / analysis
  • Kupffer Cells / cytology*
  • Liver / cytology*
  • Male
  • Povidone
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Silicon Dioxide


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Percoll
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Povidone