Autoregulation by eicosanoids of human Kupffer cell secretory products. A study of interleukin-1, interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, transforming growth factor-beta, and nitric oxide

Ann Surg. 1994 Apr;219(4):389-99. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199404000-00010.


Objective: Methods employed previously to analyze the secretory behavior of rodent Kupffer cells (KC) were used to examine the human KC's secretory response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS).

Summary background data: As the resident hepatic macrophage, the KC resides at the interface between the portal and systemic circulations. Consequently, this cell may play an integral role in the immune response to antigens and bacteria in the sinusoid. Study of cytokine production by the KC has relied predominantly on the rat as the source of these cells. Whether human KCs respond similarly to rat KCs after LPS stimulation has been a matter of speculation.

Methods: Kupffer cells obtained from seven human livers were tested under conditions identical to those used to study rat KCs. Kupffer cells rested for 12 hours after isolation were stimulated with LPS (2.5 micrograms/mL). Arginine concentration in the culture medium varied from 0.01 to 1.2 mM. To examine the role of eicosanoids, parallel culture wells received indomethacin (10 microM). Culture supernatants were assayed for interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and nitric oxide.

Results: Similar to the rat KC, LPS-stimulated human KCs released IL-1, IL-6, TNF-alpha, TGF-beta, and PGE2. However, unlike rat KCs, nitric oxide could not be detected, regardless of whether the human KCs were exposed to LPS, interferon-gamma (INF-gamma), or LPS + IFN-gamma. Similar to rat KCs, indomethacin prevented PGE2 release while significantly upregulating TNF-alpha, IL-1, and IL-6, but not TGF-beta, consistent with an autoregulatory control of eicosanoids over proinflammatory cytokines. As has been shown in the rat, physiologic levels of L-arginine (0.01 mM) significantly enhanced LPS-induced PGE2 secretion relative to the response in medium containing standard L-arginine concentration (1.2 mM); however, unlike the rat KC, the human's cytokine response to LPS was not downregulated by this enhanced PGE2 release.

Conclusions: Although many functional features are shared by rat and human KCs, significant differences do exist. Such discrepancies reinforce the need to proceed with caution when generalizing from the results obtained in other species to human physiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Dinoprostone / metabolism
  • Eicosanoids / physiology*
  • Female
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Kupffer Cells / metabolism*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Eicosanoids
  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Dinoprostone