The cholinergic innervation of the human liver was studied. Slices (150–200μm thick) of human liver and of the greater hepatic blood vessels (hepatic artery and vein, portal vein) were incubated in a solution of 6-hydroxydopamine (6-HDA) in order to obtain a selective degeneration of adrenergic nerves. Controls were prepared from samples incubated with buffer alone. The slices were cut on a cryostat into 15–20μm thick sections and processed for the histochemical detection of cholinesterases.
Cholinergic nerve fibres innervate the extra hepatic and the intrahepatic branches of the hepatic artery, the portal vein as well as the hepatic vein. Fewer cholinergic fibres innervate the hepatocytes and the hepatic sinusoids. The 6-HDA treatment does not seem to alter the pattern of the cholinergic innervation of the liver. The findings indicate the presence of a cholinergic parasympathetic innervation in the human liver.