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J Mol Histol. 2007 Aug;38(4):359-68. Epub 2007 Jun 29.

E-cadherin as a reliable cell surface marker for the identification of liver specific stem cells.

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Institute of Biochemistry, Medical Faculty, University of Leipzig, Johannisallee 30, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.


Oval cells are liver-specific bipotent stem cells which accumulate in injured liver when proliferation of mature hepatocytes and/or cholangiocytes is impaired. They represent an intermediary cell type with phenotypical characteristics of both, hepatocytes and cholangiocytes. Oval cells express specific cell surface proteins allowing their identification in situ. Most of these cell surface proteins, however, are recognized by antibodies in mouse liver tissue that are not commercially available or work only on frozen sections. We show herein the unequivocal identification of oval cells in paraffin-embedded mouse liver samples based on strong E-cadherin expression different from that of hepatocytes and bile duct cells. By comparing the pattern of E-cadherin expression with that of both, A6-antigen and CD44, we suggest a tight control of E-cadherin expression depending on the differentiation stage of the progenitor cells. In human cirrhotic liver samples E-cadherin expression was found as a common feature of both, typical and atypical reactions, and, thus, can also serve as an indication of the progenitor cell compartment activation.

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