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Compr Physiol. 2013 Oct;3(4):1473-92. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c120035.

Hepatic stellate cells and liver fibrosis.

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Division of Liver Diseases, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, New York, New York.


Hepatic stellate cells are resident perisinusoidal cells distributed throughout the liver, with a remarkable range of functions in normal and injured liver. Derived embryologically from septum transversum mesenchyme, their precursors include submesothelial cells that invade the liver parenchyma from the hepatic capsule. In normal adult liver, their most characteristic feature is the presence of cytoplasmic perinuclear droplets that are laden with retinyl (vitamin A) esters. Normal stellate cells display several patterns of intermediate filaments expression (e.g., desmin, vimentin, and/or glial fibrillary acidic protein) suggesting that there are subpopulations within this parental cell type. In the normal liver, stellate cells participate in retinoid storage, vasoregulation through endothelial cell interactions, extracellular matrix homeostasis, drug detoxification, immunotolerance, and possibly the preservation of hepatocyte mass through secretion of mitogens including hepatocyte growth factor. During liver injury, stellate cells activate into alpha smooth muscle actin-expressing contractile myofibroblasts, which contribute to vascular distortion and increased vascular resistance, thereby promoting portal hypertension. Other features of stellate cell activation include mitogen-mediated proliferation, increased fibrogenesis driven by connective tissue growth factor, and transforming growth factor beta 1, amplified inflammation and immunoregulation, and altered matrix degradation. Evolving areas of interest in stellate cell biology seek to understand mechanisms of their clearance during fibrosis resolution by either apoptosis, senescence, or reversion, and their contribution to hepatic stem cell amplification, regeneration, and hepatocellular cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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