The three-dimensional distribution of the biliary tract in the rat was studied by scanning electron microscopy of biliary casts. The casts were prepared by a retrograde infusion of a low viscosity or monomeric methacrylate resin mixture into the common bile duct. No resin flow from the bile canaliculi to sinusoidal capillaries was ever noted. Bile canaliculi formed intricate meshworks and drained via the Hering's canals into the bile ductules. The bile canalicular meshworks of adjacent lobules intercommunicated with each other. The bile ductules formed a marked periportal plexus around the portal vein branch, and drained into the intrahepatic bile duct running along the portal vein branch. The junctional zone of the Hering's canal and bile ductule usually showed an ampullary dilation. When the Hering's canal directly drained into a thick bile ductule or into a periportal plexus of bile ductules, such an ampullary dilation at the origin of the bile ductule was never replicated. The extrahepatic bile duct protruded many crypt-like projections which presumably corresponded to parietal glands. It is suggested that the periportal plexus of bile ductules may store the bile as a substitute for the gallbladder.
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