DAO 31:19-28 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/dao031019

Stages of hydropic vacuolation in the liver of winter flounder Pleuronectes americanus from a chemically contaminated site1,2

Michael J. Moore*, Roxanna M. Smolowitz**, John J. Stegeman

Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
*E-mail:
**Present address: Laboratory for Aquatic Animal Medicine and Pathology, Univ. of Penn, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

Hydropically vacuolated hepatic epithelia are abnormal cells prevalent in winter flounder from chemically contaminated habitats. These cells often have been associated with certain hepatic neoplasms. Here we define the 3 stages of the lesion and show an age and length-specific progression of each stage. The first cells to undergo vacuolation are centrotubular preductular cells. Intermediate stages involve entire hepatic tubules, and advanced stages consist of grossly visible foci of vacuolation that often encapsulate neoplastic foci. Vacuolation was found in fish from Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, USA, that were maintained on clean food and in clean water for 5 mo. These data are consistent with vacuolation being a persistent condition. The early involvement of preductular cells, possibly oval cell equivalents, the likely persistence of hydropic vacuolation after chemical exposure, and the close association of vacuolation to neoplastic foci, are consistent with suggestions that vacuolated cells may be linked to hepatocarcinogenesis in these fish. Definition of 3 distinct stages of hydropic vacuolation suggests that the prevalence of each lesion stage may reveal temporal and spatial trends in environmental health in winter flounder and possibly other fishes.


Hydropic vacuolation · Flounder · Boston Harbor · Environmental carcinogenesis


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