A system consisting of isolated rat hepatocytes immobilized in agarose threads continuously perifused with oxygenated Krebs-Henseleit (KH) solution has been found to maintain cell viability with excellent metabolic activity for more than 6 h. The hepatocytes were monitored by phosphorus-31 nuclear magnetic resonance (31P-NMR) spectroscopy at 4.7 Tesla, by measurement of oxygen consumption and by the leakage of lactate dehydrogenase (LD) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT). The data obtained were comparable to those found for an isolated perfused whole liver in vitro. The effects of allyl alcohol (AA), ethanol, and 4-acetaminophenol (AP) were examined. A solution of 225 microM AA perifused for 90 min caused the disappearance of the beta-phosphate resonance of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the 31P-NMR spectra, a 7-fold increase in LD leakage and a 70% reduction in oxygen consumption. Ethanol (1.0 M) perifused for 90 min reduced the beta-ATP signal intensity ratio by 20%, the phosphomonoester (PME) signal by 50% and inorganic phosphate (Pi) by 33% (P less than 0.05). AP (10 mM) caused only mild liver-cell damage. The results demonstrate that perifused immobilized hepatocytes can be used as a liver model to assess the effects of a wide range of chemicals and other xenobiotics by NMR spectroscopy.
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