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Front Biosci. 2008 Jan 1;13:3096-100.

EpCAM expression in normal, non-pathological tissues.

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Leipzig University, Biotechnological-Biomedical Center, Department of Cell Culture and Stem Cell Biology, Deutscher Platz 5, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.


Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule (EpCAM) is a transmembrane glycoprotein that is associated with various cancers. Most normal, non-pathological epithelial tissue is EpCAM positive with the exception of epidermal keratinocytes, gastric parietal cells, myoepithelial cells, thymic cortical epithelial, and hepatocytes. However, during early liver development EpCAM expression is also observed. In our studies, we have demonstrated that EpCAM is expressed in non-pathological human livers on hepatic progenitors in livers of all donor ages, from 16 weeks gestation fetal livers to adult. Hepatic progenitors of the liver consist of the stem cells and their descendants, the hepatoblasts, that give rise to the hepatocytic and biliary lineages. Both hepatic stem cells and most hepatoblasts express EpCAM, but only hepatoblasts are alpha-fetoprotein positive. The percentage of EpCAM positive progenitors in human livers varies with donor age and is about 2.5% in the adult and 12.1% in fetuses. In vivo, hepatic stem cells have been found associated with the canals of Hering. Xeno-transplantation experiments with EpCAM positive human liver cells have revealed their potential for proliferation and differentiation to mature liver parenchymal cells.

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