Translocation of platelets into Disse spaces and their entry into hepatocytes in response to lipopolysaccharides, interleukin-1 and tumour necrosis factor: the role of Kupffer cells

J Hepatol. 1998 Jun;28(6):991-9. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8278(98)80348-6.


Background/aims: Injection into mice of a small dose of either a lipopolysaccharide or interleukin-1 induces a slowly developing accumulation of 5-hydroxytryptamine, predominantly in the liver. We have established that this 5-hydroxytryptamine accumulation is the result of the translocation of platelets to hepatic sinusoidal spaces and, further, into Disse spaces, and that the platelets make direct contact with hepatocytes. In the present study, we report our recent findings on this phenomenon.

Methods: Platelets contain a large amount of 5-hydroxytryptamine, but the 5-hydroxytryptamine content of the liver is normally very small. Therefore, the translocation of platelets to the liver was assessed by measuring 5-hydroxytryptamine as in previous studies, and it was also analysed by electron microscopy.

Results: Anti-platelet agents, such as heparin and inhibitors of prostaglandin synthesis, were ineffective in preventing the lipopolysaccharide-induced accumulation of 5-hydroxytryptamine in the liver. Of the various cytokines tested, only interleukin-1 and tumour necrosis factor induced such an accumulation of 5-hydroxytryptamine. Intravenous injection of liposomes encapsulating dichloromethylene bisphosphonate resulted in an almost complete depletion of macrophages from the liver. The lipopolysaccharide- and cytokine-induced hepatic accumulations of 5-hydroxytryptamine were abolished almost completely in such macrophage-depleted mice. Electron microscopy revealed no accumulation of platelets in the liver after injection of lipopolysaccharide into the macrophage-depleted mice. Surprisingly, in normal mice injected with lipopolysaccharide, several platelets were found inside some hepatocytes, even though there was no visible damage to these hepatocytes. In fact, there were many polysomes around the degranulated platelets within the hepatocytes, suggesting an enhanced protein synthesis.

Conclusion: These results suggest that, in response to lipopolysaccharide, interleukin-1 or tumour necrosis factor, platelets translocate into the liver in a way that is different from aggregation, and that some, at least, enter hepatocytes. During these processes, hepatic macrophages play an essential role.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aspirin / pharmacology
  • Blood Platelets / drug effects
  • Blood Platelets / physiology*
  • Blood Platelets / ultrastructure
  • Cytokines / pharmacology*
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Escherichia coli
  • Heparin / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 / pharmacology*
  • Interleukin-1 / physiology
  • Kupffer Cells / cytology
  • Kupffer Cells / drug effects
  • Kupffer Cells / physiology*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology*
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / physiology*
  • Liver / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-1
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Heparin
  • Aspirin