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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2000 Mar 5;269(1):46-53.

Serum-free, long-term cultures of human hepatocytes: maintenance of cell morphology, transcription factors, and liver-specific functions.

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  • 1Klinik für Innere Medizin I, Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Halle, 06097, Germany.


Since human hepatocytes are available only in limited number, the development of a serum-free culture system for long-term cultivation of differentiated and functional hepatocytes is of great importance. Here we describe the culture of human hepatocytes in a chemically defined serum-free medium for up to 5 weeks. Cell morphology was assayed by light and electron microscopy and revealed a well-preserved cellular morphology. Marker proteins for epithelial and bile duct cells, cytokeratin (CK) 18 and 19, and liver-specific proteins, like phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase-2 (PCK2) and serum proteins, were expressed. Liver-enriched transcription factors CCAAT/enhancer binding protein alpha (C/EBPalpha) and hepatocyte nuclear factor-4 (HNF-4), cytokine and mitogen activated factors (nuclear factor kappa B) NFkappaB, and activator protein-1 (AP-1) were maintained and active for several weeks in our cultures. In summary, our serum-free culture system allows the culture of differentiated human hepatocytes for several weeks. It may serve as a model system for metabolic, pharmacologic-toxicologic studies, and studies on human pathogens under defined chemical conditions.

Copyright 2000 Academic Press.

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