Male/female differences in enzyme activity and gene expression in the liver are known to be attenuated with ageing. Nevertheless, the effect of ageing on liver structure and quantitative cell morphology remains unknown. Male and female Wistar rats aged 2, 6, 12 and 18 months were examined by means of stereological techniques and immunohistochemical tagging of hepatocytes (HEP), liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSEC), Kupffer cells (KC) and hepatic stellate cells (HSC) in order to assess the total number and number per gram of these cells throughout life. The mean cell volume of HEP and HSC, the lobular position and the collagen content of the liver were also evaluated with stereological techniques. The number per gram of HSC was similar for both genders and was maintained throughout ageing. The mean volume of HSC was also conserved but differences in the cell body and lobular location were observed. Statistically significant gender differences in HEP were noted in young rats (females had smaller and more binucleated HEP) but were attenuated with ageing. The same occurred for KC and LSEC, since the higher number per gram in young females disappeared in older animals. Liver collagen increased with ageing but only in males. Thus, the numbers of these four cell types are related throughout ageing, with well-defined cell ratios. The shape and lobular position of HSC change with ageing in both males and females. Gender dimorphism in HEP, KC and LSEC of young rat liver disappears with ageing.
- Hepatic stellate cells
- Kupffer cells