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Gastroenterology. 1999 Nov;117(5):1205-21.

Rat liver myofibroblasts and hepatic stellate cells: different cell populations of the fibroblast lineage with fibrogenic potential.

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Section of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.



Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are considered the principal matrix-producing cells of the damaged liver. However, other cell types of the fibroblast lineage that have not yet been characterized are also involved in liver tissue repair and fibrogenesis.


We established cultures of cells of the fibroblast lineage, termed rat liver myofibroblasts, and analyzed their phenotypical and functional properties in comparison with HSCs.


HSCs and rat liver myofibroblasts were discernible by morphological criteria and growth behavior. Prolonged subcultivation of rat liver myofibroblasts was achieved, but HSCs were maintained in culture at maximum until second passage. HSCs were characterized by expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein, desmin, and vascular cell adhesion molecule 1, which were almost completely absent in rat liver myofibroblasts. For synthetic properties, HSCs and rat liver myofibroblasts displayed mostly overlapping properties with 4 striking differences. The complement-activating protease P100 and the protease inhibitor alpha(2)-macroglobulin were preferentially expressed by HSCs, whereas interleukin 6-coding messenger RNAs and the extracellular matrix protein fibulin 2 were almost exclusively detectable in rat liver myofibroblasts.


The data show that morphologically and functionally different fibroblastic populations, HSCs and rat liver myofibroblasts, can be derived from liver tissue. HSCs may not represent the single matrix-producing cell type of the fibroblast lineage in the liver.

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