Background and Aims: Hepatobiliary complications occur in inflammatory bowel disease and may be caused by the translocation of intestinal toxins from portal blood into bile through leaky hepatocyte tight junctions. The role of tight junctions in the pathogenesis of hepatobiliary complications in experimental inflammatory bowel disease was investigated. Methods: Colitis was induced in rats by intracolonic instillation of trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid. The function of hepatocellular tight junctions was evaluated in perfused livers by measuring early (paracellular) horseradish peroxidase excretion into the bile and by electron microscopy and semi-quantitative analysis of lanthanum penetration through the tight junction and into bile canaliculi. Immunofluorescent localization of cingulin and ZO-1 was used to study the structure of hepatocyte junctions. Results: Colitis was associated with increased serum bilirubin and bile acid concentrations, a 2.5-fold increase in paracellular biliary excretion of horseradish peroxidase, and a ninefold increase in lanthanum permeability. Liver histology and cingulin and ZO-1 localizations were similar to normal liver. Conclusions: Experimental colitis is associated with hepatobiliary complications and an increased hepatocyte tight junctional permeability to horseradish peroxidase and lanthanum. Subtle alterations in tight junction function may be involved in the pathogenesis of hepatobiliary injuries in inflammatory bowel disease.
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