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J Mol Histol. 2007 Mar;38(1):53-64. Epub 2007 Feb 9.

The diffuse stellate cell system.

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  • 1School of Clinical and Laboratory Sciences and Institute of Cellular Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK.


Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) play an important role in liver fibrogenesis. Morphologically similar cells have been found at extrahepatic sites such as pancreas, kidney and colon. The true phenotypic relationship between these cells has not been fully established. We carried out immunohistochemical staining in normal tissues from liver, kidney, colon, pancreas, lung and heart, obtained from a range of species. Immunoreactivity to antibodies directed to synemin, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), nestin, neurofilament-L, beta-tubulin, protein gene product 9.5 (PGP9.5), S100, desmin, alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA) and vimentin was examined. Synemin was identified in HSCs, pancreatic stellate cells, mesangial cells and in peribronchiolar stellate-shaped fibroblasts. GFAP positivity was detected in HSCs and peribronchiolar stellate-shaped fibroblasts. Desmin immunoreactivity was detected in HSCs, pancreatic stellate cells, mesangial cells, periglomerular and peritubular fibroblasts, subepithelial fibroblasts, as well as in peribronchiolar stellate-shaped fibroblasts. Vimentin expression was evident in HSCs, periductal fibroblasts, pancreatic stellate cells, fibroblasts within the fibroconnective tissue capsule, mesangial cells, subepithelial fibroblasts and the interstitial cells of Cajal, as well as in peribronchiolar fibroblasts. Mesangial cells and peritubular fibroblasts showed nestin immunoreactivity. Our data indicates that mesenchymal cells at extrahepatic sites express many of the neural and muscle-associated proteins seen in HSCs; there are however species differences in the expression pattern of these proteins. The findings support the concept of a diffuse stellate cell system in mammals.

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