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Am J Pathol. 1990 Jul;137(1):59-70.

Cellular localization of type I III and IV procollagen gene transcripts in normal and fibrotic human liver.

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Institute of Pathology, Klinikum Steglitz, Free University of Berlin, West Germany.


The authors have determined the cell types producing alpha 1 (I), alpha 2 (I), alpha 1 (III), and alpha 1 (IV) procollagen gene transcripts in adult human liver by in situ hybridization with [35S]-labeled RNA probes. The liver specimens comprised a total of 20 biopsies with normal histology and biopsies with fibrosis or cirrhosis at different clinical stages and of heterogeneous origins. In normal liver, procollagen type I, III, and IV transcripts were detected in stromal and vascular mesenchymal cells of portal tracts and central veins, as well as in some perisinusoidal cells of the lobule. In fibrotic liver, increased levels of these procollagen mRNAs were observed in the same locations, and particularly enhanced in stromal cells of fibrotic septa and portal tracts, as well as in perisinusoidal cells. Expression of alpha 1 (IV) procollagen RNA was additionally found in some vascular endothelial and bile duct epithelial cells. Although previously suggested as the major source of liver collagens, hepatocytes showed no significant procollagen transcript levels in any of our samples. Thus, procollagen synthesis does not appear to be a function of hepatocytes, but rather of mesenchymal, endothelial, and bile duct epithelial cells in adult human liver. These findings may have implications for the development of specifically targeted antifibrotic therapies.

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