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Am J Pathol. 2001 Apr;158(4):1239-44.

Proliferating bile duct epithelial cells are a major source of connective tissue growth factor in rat biliary fibrosis.

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  • 1Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Klinikum Benjamin Franklin, Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is a downstream mediator of transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) and thus a potential target for antifibrotic treatment strategies. CTGF is up-regulated in disorders such as atherosclerosis, scleroderma, and fibrosis of kidneys and lungs. We investigated the temporospatial expression patterns of CTGF and TGF-beta1 mRNA in rat livers with acute fibrogenesis (after a single dose of CCl(4)) and with advanced fibrosis (6 weeks after complete bile duct occlusion). Multiprobe ribonuclease protection assay revealed increasing TGF-beta1 and CTGF mRNA levels 6 hours after injection of CCl(4), with peak levels after 72 hours. In biliary fibrosis TGF-beta1 and CTGF mRNA levels increased fourfold and sevenfold, respectively (P: < 0.001). In situ hybridization combined with cell-specific markers revealed CTGF transcripts in desmin-positive cells after a single dose of carbon tetrachloride, whereas no transcripts were found in normal livers. In biliary fibrosis, however, proliferating bile duct epithelial cells were the predominant source of CTGF mRNA. We conclude that in rat liver fibrogenesis CTGF is up-regulated in close association with TGF-beta1 and that, contrary to a previous report, not solely hepatic stellate cells but activated bile duct epithelial cells are the main source of this profibrogenic factor.

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