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Am J Pathol. 2001 Oct;159(4):1323-34.

Stem cell properties and repopulation of the rat liver by fetal liver epithelial progenitor cells.

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Marion Bessin Liver Research Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA.


The potential of embryonal day (ED) 14 fetal liver epithelial progenitor (FLEP) cells from Fischer (F)344 rats to repopulate the normal and retrorsine-treated liver was studied throughout a 6-month period in syngeneic dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPPIV-) mutant F344 rats. In normal liver, FLEP cells formed: 1) hepatocytic clusters ranging in size up to approximately 800 to 1000 cells; 2) bile duct structures connected to pre-existing host bile ducts; and 3) mixed clusters containing both hepatocytes and bile duct epithelial cells. Liver repopulation after 6 months was moderate (5 to 10%). In retrorsine-treated liver, transplanted cells formed large multilobular structures containing both parenchymal and bile duct cells and liver repopulation was extensive (60 to 80%). When the repopulating capacity of ED 14 FLEP cells transplanted into normal liver was compared to adult hepatocytes, three important differences were noted: 1) FLEP cells continued to proliferate at 6 months after transplantation, whereas adult hepatocytes ceased proliferation within the first month; 2) both the number and size of clusters derived from FLEP cells gradually increased throughout time but decreased throughout time with transplanted mature hepatocytes; and 3) FLEP cells differentiated into hepatocytes when engrafted into the liver parenchyma and into bile epithelial cells when engrafted in the vicinity of the host bile ducts, whereas adult hepatocytes did not form bile duct structures. Finally, after transplantation of ED 14 FLEP cells, new clusters of DPPIV+ cells appeared after 4 to 6 months, suggesting reseeding of the liver by transplanted cells. This study represents the first report with an isolated fetal liver epithelial cell fraction in which the cells exhibit properties of tissue-determined stem cells after their transplantation into normal adult liver; namely, bipotency and continued proliferation long after their transplantation.

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