Using a modified indirect immunofluorescent (IF) technique in which cryostat tissue sections were fixed in Bouin's solution for ten minutes prior to reaction with sera under test, we have looked for antibodies to the hepatocyte membrane (HMA) in the sera of patients with chronic active hepatitis (CAH) and primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Samples were tested initially in parallel on unfixed and Bouin's-fixed rat composite blocks (kidney, stomach, liver) at a titer of 1:100 and those found to be positive were diluted further and reexamined. Conventional unfixed sections of rat composite block showed no liver membrane immunofluorescence although antinuclear (ANA), mitochondrial (AMA), and smooth muscle antibodies (SMA) were detected as anticipated. By contrast, prior Bouin's fixation abolished most of the fluorescence due to ANA, AMA and SMA but resulted in brilliant fluorescence of rat hepatocyte membranes in eleven of twelve patients with CAH (93%) and all ten patients with PBC. Only one of 22 normals (5%), one of 20 with collagen-vascular diseases (5%), and one of seven with nonimmunologic liver disease (14%) were positive for this hepatocyte membrane antibody. Bouin's fixation prior to IF is a simple technique which appears to alter the hepatocyte membrane so that HMA becomes detectable. The strong association of HMA with CAH and PBC suggests that this test might be of value and may contribute towards a further understanding of the pathogenesis of these conditions.
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