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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2007 Jan 12;352(2):410-7. Epub 2006 Nov 15.

CD133+ hepatic stellate cells are progenitor cells.

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Clinic of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Infectiology, Heinrich-Heine-University, Moorenstrasse 5, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.


Hepatic stellate cells (HSC) play an important role in the development of liver fibrosis. Here, we report that HSC express the stem/progenitor cell marker CD133 and exhibit properties of progenitor cells. CD133+ HSC of rats were selected by specific antibodies and magnetic cell sorting. Selected cells displayed typical markers of HSC, endothelial progenitor cells (EPC), and monocytes. In cell culture, CD133+ HSC transformed into alpha-smooth muscle actin positive myofibroblast-like cells, whereas application of cytokines known to facilitate EPC differentiation into endothelial cells led to the formation of branched tube-like structures and induced expression of the endothelial cell markers endothelial nitric oxide synthase and vascular-endothelial cadherin. Moreover, cytokines that guide stem cells to develop hepatocytes led to the appearance of rotund cells and expression of the hepatocyte markers alpha-fetoprotein and albumin. It is concluded that CD133+ HSC are a not yet recognized progenitor cell compartment with characteristics of early EPC. Their potential to differentiate into endothelial or hepatocyte lineages suggests important functions of CD133+ HSC during liver regeneration.

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