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Gastroenterology. 2008 Jul;135(1):270-281.e3. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2008.03.075. Epub 2008 Apr 4.

p75 Neurotrophin receptor is a marker for precursors of stellate cells and portal fibroblasts in mouse fetal liver.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.



Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) and portal fibroblasts (PFs) are 2 distinct mesenchymal cells in adult liver. HSCs in sinusoids accumulate lipids and express p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR). HSCs and PFs play pivotal roles in liver regeneration and fibrosis. However, the roles of mesenchymal cells in fetal liver remain poorly understood. In this study, we aimed to characterize mesenchymal cells in mouse fetal liver.


We prepared an anti-p75NTR monoclonal antibody applicable for flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry. p75NTR(+) cells isolated from fetal liver by flow cytometry were characterized by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, immunohistochemistry, and cell cultivation. Lipid-containing cells were visualized by Oil-red O staining.


p75NTR(+) cells in fetal liver were clearly distinct from endothelial cells and showed characteristics of mesenchymal cells. At embryonic day (E) 10.5, p75NTR(+) cells were present at the periphery of the liver bud in close contact with endothelial cells, and spread over the liver at E11.5. With the formation of the liver architecture, they began to localize to 2 distinct areas, parenchymal and portal areas, and lipid-containing p75NTR(+) cells increased accordingly. p75NTR(+) cells around portal veins were adjacent to cholangiocytes and expressed Jagged1, a crucial factor for the commitment of hepatoblasts to cholangiocytes. By cultivation, p75NTR(+) cells showed features of adult HSCs with markedly increased expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein and alpha-smooth muscle actin.


p75NTR(+) mesenchymal cells in fetal liver include progenitors for HSCs and PFs, and the anti-p75NTR monoclonal antibody is useful for their isolation.

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