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Hepatology. 2011 Mar;53(3):1035-45. doi: 10.1002/hep.24157.

Human hepatic stem cell and maturational liver lineage biology.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.


Livers are comprised of maturational lineages of cells beginning extrahepatically in the hepato-pancreatic common duct near the duodenum and intrahepatically in zone 1 by the portal triads. The extrahepatic stem cell niches are the peribiliary glands deep within the walls of the bile ducts; those intrahepatically are the canals of Hering in postnatal livers and that derive from ductal plates in fetal livers. Intrahepatically, there are at least eight maturational lineage stages from the stem cells in zone 1 (periportal), through the midacinar region (zone 2), to the most mature cells and apoptotic cells found pericentrally in zone 3. Those found in the biliary tree are still being defined. Parenchymal cells are closely associated with lineages of mesenchymal cells, and their maturation is coordinated. Each lineage stage consists of parenchymal and mesenchymal cell partners distinguishable by their morphology, ploidy, antigens, biochemical traits, gene expression, and ability to divide. They are governed by changes in chromatin (e.g., methylation), gradients of paracrine signals (soluble factors and insoluble extracellular matrix components), mechanical forces, and feedback loop signals derived from late lineage cells. Feedback loop signals, secreted by late lineage stage cells into bile, flow back to the periportal area and regulate the stem cells and other early lineage stage cells in mechanisms dictating the size of the liver mass. Recognition of maturational lineage biology and its regulation by these multiple mechanisms offers new understandings of liver biology, pathologies, and strategies for regenerative medicine and treatment of liver cancers.

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