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J Hepatol. 2000 Nov;33(5):701-8.

Construction of a non-tumorigenic rat hepatocyte cell line for transplantation: reversal of hepatocyte immortalization by site-specific excision of the SV40 T antigen.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, USA.



Hepatocytes immortalized with a temperature-sensitive SV40 large T antigen (SV40Tag) function as well as primary hepatocytes following transplantation to reverse hepatic encephalopathy and improve survival in rodents with liver failure. The continued presence of SV40Tag in the conditionally immortalized hepatocytes may increase the risk of malignant tumor growth in transplant recipients.


We immortalized hepatocytes using a recombinant retrovirus containing the gene encoding SV40Tag flanked by loxP recombination target sites. Excision of SV40Tag from immortalized cells could then be accomplished by site-specific recombination with Cre-recombinase.


Cells immortalized with this recombinant virus expressed SV40Tag and doubled in number every 48 h. After excision of the gene encoding SV40Tag with Cre-recombinase, cells stopped growing, DNA synthesis fell by 90%, and production of liver-specific mRNAs was either increased or became newly detectable. In addition, the morphology and epithelial cell polarity of the cells became more characteristic of differentiated hepatocytes. To determine their malignant potential, immortalized hepatocytes were transfected to express a second oncogene, activated H-ras. SV40Tag+/H-ras+-immortalized cells were capable of anchorage-independent growth and developed into tumors when injected in severe combined immunodeficiency mice. While Cre-recombinase delivery by recombinant adenovirus infection was not 100% efficient, when SV40Tag excision occurred anchorage-independent growth stopped and tumor formation in immunodeficient mice was abolished. Immortalized hepatocytes also contained the gene encoding herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase and treatment with ganciclovir produced complete regression of established tumors in mice.


These studies extend previous work that indicates that a transplantable hepatocyte cell line could be developed for clinical use.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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