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Am J Pathol. 2002 Oct;161(4):1187-98.

Heterogeneity of ductular reactions in adult rat and human liver revealed by novel expression of deleted in malignant brain tumor 1.

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Department of Medical Biochemistry and Genetics, The Panum Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.


The regenerative capacity of mammalian adult liver reflects the ability of a number of cell populations within the hepatic lineage to take action. Limited information is available regarding factors and mechanisms that determine the specific lineage level at which liver cells contribute to liver repair as well as the fate of their progeny in the hostile environment created by liver injury. In the present study, we attempted to identify novel molecules preferentially involved in liver regeneration by recruitment of transit-amplifying, ductular (oval) cell populations. With a subtractive cDNA library screening approach, we identified 48 enriched, nonredundant gene products associated with liver injury and oval cell proliferation in the adult rat liver. Of these, only two, namely alpha-fetoprotein and a novel transcript with high homology to human DMBT1 (deleted in malignant brain tumor 1), were specifically associated with the emergence of ductular (oval) cell populations in injured liver. Subsequent cloning and characterization of the rat DMBT1 homologue revealed a highly inducible expression in ductular reactions composed of transit-amplifying ductular (oval) cells, but not in ductular reactions after ligation of the common bile duct. In human liver diseases, DMBT1 was expressed in ductular reactions after infection with hepatitis B and acetaminophen intoxication, but not in primary biliary cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and obstruction of the large bile duct. The expression heterogeneity in ductular reactions and multiple functions of DMBT1 homologues point to intriguing roles in regulating not only tissue repair but also fate decision and differentiation paths of specific cell populations in the hepatic lineage.

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