Bile Microinfarcts in Cholestasis Are Initiated by Rupture of the Apical Hepatocyte Membrane and Cause Shunting of Bile to Sinusoidal Blood

A. Ghallab, U. Hofmann, S. Sezgin, N. Vartak, R. Hassan, A. Zaza, P. Godoy, K.M. Schneider, G. Guenther, Y.A. Ahmed, A.A. Abbas, V. Keitel, L. Kuepfer, S. Dooley, F. Lammert, C. Trautwein, M. Spiteller, D. Drasdo, A.F. Hofmann, P.L.M. JansenJ.G. Hengstler*, R. Reif

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Bile duct ligation (BDL) is an experimental procedure that mimics obstructive cholestatic disease. One of the early consequences of BDL in rodents is the appearance of so-called bile infarcts that correspond to Charcot-Gombault necrosis in human cholestasis. The mechanisms causing bile infarcts and their pathophysiological relevance are unclear. Therefore, intravital two photon-based imaging of BDL mice was performed with fluorescent bile salts (BS) and non-BS organic anion analogues. Key findings were followed up by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization imaging, clinical chemistry, immunostaining, and gene expression analyses. In the acute phase, 1-3 days after BDL, BS concentrations in bile increased and single-cell bile microinfarcts occurred in dispersed hepatocytes throughout the liver caused by the rupture of the apical hepatocyte membrane. This rupture occurred after loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, followed by entry of bile, cell death, and a "domino effect" of further death events of neighboring hepatocytes. Bile infarcts provided a trans-epithelial shunt between bile canaliculi and sinusoids by which bile constituents leaked into blood. In the chronic phase, >= 21 days after BDL, uptake of BS tracers at the sinusoidal hepatocyte membrane was reduced. This contributes to elevated concentrations of BS in blood and decreased concentrations in the biliary tract. Conclusion: Bile microinfarcts occur in the acute phase after BDL in a limited number of dispersed hepatocytes followed by larger infarcts involving neighboring hepatocytes, and they allow leakage of bile from the BS-overloaded biliary tract into blood, thereby protecting the liver from BS toxicity; in the chronic phase after BDL, reduced sinusoidal BS uptake is a dominant protective factor, and the kidney contributes to the elimination of BS until cholemic nephropathy sets in.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-683
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • acids
  • cholemic nephropathy
  • inflammation
  • injury
  • mice
  • rat hepatocytes
  • transport
  • MICE

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