Liver regeneration following partial hepatectomy involves rapid cell division 24 to 72 hr postresection. This cell division would necessarily involve changes in intracellular energy stores and cell membrane phospholipid precursors. In tumor models 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) has been shown to identify intracellular substrate changes associated with cell growth. The ability to monitor early changes in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), inorganic orthophosphate (Pi), phosphomonoesters (PME), or phosphodiesters (PDE) after liver resection could indicate the intracellular changes necessary for hepatocellular regeneration. In vivo, 31P NMR scans of the liver were performed in both normal rats and in rats at 24, 48, 72, and 120 hr after 70% hepatectomy. At 48 hr, total ATP fell to 18.9% (P < 0.05) and both Pi/β-ATP and PME/β-ATP were significantly elevated (P < 0.01) from controls. These changes correlate with the known mitotic peak in the rat following hepatectomy. We conclude that in vivo, 31P NMR is a potentially valuable tool for studying hepatic regeneration. The data also suggest that hepatocellular regeneration may be critically dependent on cellular ATP stores.
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