Volume 3 Supplement 1
Decreased Capacity for Vitamin A Storage in Hepatic Stellate Cells for Arctic Animals
© Senoo et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd 2004
Published: 14 January 2004
Under physiological conditions, hepatic stellate cells store 80 % of the total vitamin A in the whole body as retinyl palmitate in lipid droplets in the cytoplasm, and regulate both transport and storage of vitamin A [1–3].
It has been demonstrated that animal or human individuals exposed to drugs such as methadone, prednisone and phenobarbital, antiepileptics , and xenobiotics like the environmental contaminants DDT, PCD and dioxins have dramatic changes in their retinoid metabolism and function.
Recent data demonstrate that top predators among Svalbard mammals and birds like polar bear, arctic fox and glaucous gull accumulate relatively large amounts of persistent organic pollutants . Since it has been reported that vitamin A accumulates at near toxic doses in some arctic predators  and recent data suggest that PCB and DDT may reduce the threshold for vitamin A-toxicity , an increasing accumulation of persistent organic pollutants might eventually precipitate vitamin A-toxicity in these animals. To elucidate the possibility of vitamin A-related toxicity in arctic predators, we have performed a systematic characterization of the hepatic vitamin A-storage, which is the best index of the vitamin A-status, in mammals of the Svalbard archipelago.
After getting permission to hunt the animals from the district governor of Svalbard, 11 arctic foxes and 14 bearded seals, were caught in the Svalbard archipelago near Longyearbyen (78Ø N, 15Ø E) in the period from August 1996 to September 2001. Three polar bears were shot in self-defense at Svalbard February and August 1998 in Ny Ølesund and Hornsund. Distribution and content of vitamin A in livers and other organs were analyzed by morphological methods such as transmission electron microscopy, fluorescence microscopy for detection of autofluorescence of vitamin A and gold chloride staining  and high-performance liquid chromatography.
Results and Discussion
Total retinol concentration in liver and kidney from rats and arctic animals.
Total retinol concentrationa
Kidney concentration as percent of liver concentration
Control rats (n = 3)b
Vitamin A-fed rats (n = 3)b
Polar bear (n = 3)
Arctic fox (n = 8)
Bearded seal (n = 10)
The concentration of total retinol in kidney is normally less that 1% of the concentration in liver. However, following an intake of excessive amounts of vitamin A or after experimental treatment with xenobiotics like HCB, TCDD and PCB, the concentration in kidneys may increase several-fold [10, 11]. Kidney total retinol may therefore be used as a biomarker for vitamin A-related toxicity or excess. When we measured the kidney concentration of total retinol in the top arctic predators we observed that polar bear and bearded seal had kidney levels below 1% of their liver value (Table 1). Arctic fox, however, had kidney levels of about 9% of the liver values (Table 1).
Strong autofluorescence and gold chloride staining were present in hepatic stellate cells of polar bear, arctic fox, and bearded seal (data not shown). The distribution of stored vitamin A in the arctic animals was essentially the same as that published previously in normal rat and human liver [2, 3]. In livers of arctic fox, polar bear, and beared seal, stellate cells stored one or two large lipid droplets in their cytoplasm (data not shown). In the kidney of arctic foxes and bearded seals, interstitial cells (renal stellate cells) stored vitamin A-lipid droplets (data not shown).
Increased kidney concentrations of total retinol in arctic fox most likely are a sign of pollutant-induced vitamin A-toxicity. It is interesting to note that the highest accumulation of organic pollutants in arctic animals occur in the arctic fox . Relative decrease of liver concentration of total retinol in arctic fox might be due to the decreased capacity for storage of vitamin A in hepatic stellate cells.
The authors are grateful to JØrn Eldar Fortun, Anders Friberg, and Trond Østaas for their excellent hunting. We also thank the University Courses at Svalbard for their generous assistance by allowing us to use their laboratory facilities in Longyearbyen, the Norwegian Polar Institute and the District Governor at Svalbard.
- Blomhoff R: Vitamin A in Health and Disease. New York, Marcel Dekker Inc. 1994Google Scholar
- Wake K: Sternzellen in the liver, perisinusoidal cells with special reference to storage of vitamin A. Am J Anat. 1971, 132: 429-462. 10.1002/aja.1001320404.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Blomhoff R, Wake K: Perisinusoidal stellate cells of the liver: important roles in retinol metabolism and fibrosis. FASEB J. 1991, 5: 271-277.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Botilsrud M, Wathne KO, Norum KR, Blomhoff R: Effects of antiepileptics on the hepatic storage of retinol. In Vivo. 1988, 2: 253-256.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Muir DC, Norstrom RJ: Geographical differences and time trends of persistent organic pollutants in the Arctic. Toxicol Lett. 2000, 112Ø113: 93-101. 10.1016/S0378-4274(99)00255-6.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Rodahl K: Toxicity of polar bear liver. Nature. 1949, 164: 530-531. 10.1038/164530a0.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Norstrom RJ, Muir DC: Chlorinated hydrocarbon contaminants in arctic marine mammals. Sci Total Environ. 1994, 154: 107-128. 10.1016/0048-9697(94)90082-5.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Wake K, Motomatsu K, Senoo H, Masuda A, Adachi E: Improved Kupffer's gold chloride method for demonstrating the stellate cells storing retinol (vitamin A) in the liver and extrahepatic organs of vertebrates. Stain Technol. 1986, 61: 193-200.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Nagy NE, Holven KB, Roos N, Senoo H, Kojima N, Norum KR, Blomhoff R: Storage of vitamin A in extrahepatic stellate cells in normal rats. J Lip Res. 1997, 38: 645-658.Google Scholar
- Brouwer A, Hakansson H, Kukler AK, Van den Berg J, Ahlborg UG: Marked alterations in retinoid homeostasis of Sprague-Dawley rats induced by a single i.p. dose of 10 micrograms/kg of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin. Toxicology. 1989, 58: 267-283. 10.1016/0300-483X(89)90141-8.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kelley SK, Nilsson CB, Green MH, Green JB, Hakansson H: Mobilization of vitamin A stores in rats after administration of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin: a kinetic analysis. Toxicol Sci. 2000, 55: 478-484. 10.1093/toxsci/55.2.478.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Skaare JU, Bernhoft A, Derocher A, Gabrielsen GW, GoksØyr A, Henriksen E, Larsen HJ, Lie E, Wiig Ø: Organochlorines in top predators at Svalbard Ø occurrence, levels and effects. Toxicol Lett. 2000, 112Ø113: 103-109. 10.1016/S0378-4274(99)00256-8.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.