The ultrastructural appearance of the endoplasmic reticulum of the hepatocytes was found to be normal in a 5-year-old girl with alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency with the genotype Pi--. The liver ultrastructure of this variant is therefore different from that of alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency with the genotype PiZZ in which aggregates of an abnormal, unsecreted alpha-1-antitrypsin accumulate in the endoplasmic reticulum of the hepatocytes. The normal appearance of the endoplasmic reticulum in alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency with the genotype Pi-- is compatible with the hypothesis, in this variant, synthesis of alpha-1-antitrypsin is completely, or nearly completely, absent; an alternative hypothesis would be that an abnormal alpha-1-antitrypsin is produced by the liver and secreted into the plasma, but disappears rapidly from the plasma.
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