5-Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), a synthetic analogue of thymidine, has been utilized in vivo to detect the proliferation which occurs in the liver after two-thirds surgical hepatectomy. Immunocytochemical detection of BrdU incorporation has been carried out at both the morphological and flow cytometrical level, while structural changes of regenerating liver have been investigated, using Mallory-Azan-stained paraffin sections, by means of an image analyser. The results obtained show that in vivo DNA synthesis progression throughout S phase follows a pattern similar to that previously described in vitro in both 3T3 fibroblasts and Friend erythroleukemia cells and also demonstrate a precise correlation between morphological patterns of BrdU incorporating cells and their lobular distribution. Moreover, the activation of at least two proliferation waves can be detected from 18 to 34 h after hepatectomy: the former, starting from adjacent regions of contiguous lobules, apparently induces an irregular increase of lobular dimension; the latter, involving both inner and peripheral lobular domains, seems to be correlated with the appearance of nodule-like structures at the lobule periphery. In view of these results the role of the hepatic acinus and the hypothesis of a streaming of parenchymal cells during liver regeneration have been discussed.
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