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J Hepatol. 1996 Jun;24(6):719-30.

Glial fibrillary acidic protein--a cell type specific marker for Ito cells in vivo and in vitro.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany.



Glial fibrillary acidic protein is an intermediate filament first identified in the brain in astrocytes. This study examines glial fibrillary acidic protein immunoreactivity in normal and damaged rat livers. Glial fibrillary acidic protein-gene-expression in Ito cells, endothelial cells, Kupffer cells, and hepatocytes is also analyzed.


Sequential cryostat sections from normal, as well as acutely or chronically CC14 damaged rat livers were analyzed by immunostaining for the presence of glial fibrillary acidic protein and desmin. Glial fibrillary acidic protein-expression in isolated liver cells was studied by immunocytology, Western blot, Northern blot analysis, and reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction. The specificity of polymerase chain reaction products was tested by Southern blot hybridization and partial sequencing.


In the normal liver, glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive cells were detected in the perisinusoidal area. These cells were also desmin-immunoreactive as determined by immunostaining. In contrast, cells of the vessel walls were desmin-positive, but glial fibrillary acidic protein-negative. In the acutely damaged livers glial fibrillary acidic protein-positivity was detectable along the non-damaged sinusoids as well as in the necrotic areas. In chronically damaged livers glial fibrillary acidic protein was more detectable at the margins of the fibrotic septa, less inside the septa. All glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive cells were desmin-positive, but several desmin-positive cells were glial fibrillary acidic protein-negative (especially inside the septa). Among the different liver cell subpopulations tested in vitro, glial fibrillary acidic protein-gene expression was only detectable in Ito cells. During primary culture, glial fibrillary acidic protein-expression decreased in parallel to Ito cell activation.


Glial fibrillary acidic protein is a new cell type specific marker for Ito cells, which might allow distinction between Ito cells and other fibroblastic liver cells (cells of the vessel walls). Cells located at the margins of fibrotic septa definitely represent Ito cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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