Hepatocyte lysosomes disassemble materials derived from intracellular sources, including lipid-containing membranes, by a process called autophagy. In addition, hepatocyte lysosomes can release their contents into bile by exocytosis. Therefore, using both in vivo and in vitro models, we tested the hypothesis that acute pharmacologic induction of autophagy would modify the biliary excretion of lysosomal protein and of lipids. We treated rats with a single dose of chloroquine (10 mg/kg), glucagon (1 mg/kg), or control solutions and collected bile via bile fistulas. Both chloroquine and glucagon immediately caused a marked and parallel decrease in biliary excretion of three lysosomal enzymes, N-acetyl-β-glucosaminidase, β-glucuronidase, and β-galactosidase, to 25%-30% of baseline values (p < 0.01). This decrease was sustained for 2 h after glucagon and 4 h after chloroquine administration. In contrast, biliary lipid changes were minor: a slight lowering of biliary cholesterol secretion after chloroquine (p < 0.05), but no change in biliary bile acids, cholesterol, and phospholipid secretion after glucagon. Changes in biliary excretion of lysosomal enzymes accompanying chloroquine and glucagon administration were associated with morphologic evidence of autophagy as assessed by electron microscopy and by increased fragility of hepatic lysosomes as assessed by latency of N-acetyl-β-glucosaminidase. These in vivo changes in biliary lysosomal enzyme excretion induced by chloroquine and glucagon were confirmed in vitro using the isolated perfused rat liver. Thus, acute induction of autophagy results in conservation of hepatic lysosomal protein and has virtually no effect on biliary lipid excretion.
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