The metabolism of cadmium was investigated in Wistar-rat liver non-parenchymal cells. Kupffer and endothelial cells, the major cell populations lining the sinusoidal tracts, were isolated by collagenase dispersion and purified by centrifugal elutriation. At 20 h after subcutaneous injection of the metal salt (1.5 mg of Cd/kg body weight), endothelial cells accumulated 2-fold higher concentrations of Cd than did Kupffer or parenchymal cells. Most of the Cd in non-parenchymal cells was associated with cytosolic metallothionein (MT), the low-Mr heavy-metal-binding protein(s). When MT was quantified in cytosols from cells isolated from control rats by a 203Hg competitive-binding assay, low levels were found to be present in Kupffer, endothelial and parenchymal cells. Cd injection significantly increased MT levels in all three cell types. The induction of MT synthesis was investigated in vitro by using primary monolayer cultures. The incorporation of [35S]cysteine into MT increased 47% over constitutive levels in endothelial-cell cultures after the addition of 0.8 microM-Cd2+ to the medium for 10 h. MT synthesis in Kupffer cells was not observed. The lack of MT synthesis by monolayer cultures of Kupffer cells in vitro was associated with a decreased capacity of these cells to accumulate heavy metals from the extracellular medium. This apparent decreased ability to transport metals did not reflect a general defect in either cellular function or metabolic activity, since isolated Kupffer cells incorporated [3H]leucine into protein at rates comparable with those shown by liver parenchymal cells and readily phagocytosed particles.
- © 1984 London: The Biochemical Society