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Tohoku J Exp Med. 1997 Jan;181(1):19-32.

Normal and abnormal development of the human intrahepatic biliary system: a review.

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Second Department of Pathology, Tottori University, Faculty of Medicine, Yonago, Japan.


Morphology and immunohistochemical features of the developmental process of the human intrahepatic biliary system (IBS) are reviewed. Human IBS arises from the ductal plate, a double-layered cylindrical structure located at the interface between portal mesenchyme and primitive hepatocytes. The ductal plate first appears from primitive hepatocytes (hepatoblasts) around 8 gestational weeks (GW), and its formation proceeds from the hepatic hilum to the periphery. The ductal plate gradually undergoes remodeling from 12 GW; some parts of the ductal plate disappear and other parts migrate into the portal mesenchyme. Around 20 GW, the migrated duct cells transform into immature bile ducts and peribiliary glands. Some immature peribiliary glands transform into pancreatic acinar cells around postnatal 3 months. The immature biliary elements express cytokeratins no. 7, 8, 18 and 19. Several growth factors (TGF-alpha, HGF) and their receptors (EGFR, MET, ERBB2) were expressed in the primitive IBS cells. Some extracellular matrix proteins including type IV collagen, laminin and tenascin are expressed in the mesenchyme around the primitive IBS. During IBS remodeling, apoptosis and cell proliferation occur with appropriate expression of apoptosis-related proteins (bcl-2, Fas, c-myc, Lewis(y)). Some pancreatic digestive enzymes (alpha-amylase, trypsinogen, lipase), cathepsin B, and matrix metalloproteinases (MMP-1, 2, 3, 9) and their inhibitors (TIMP-1, 2) are expressed in the remodeling IBS cells. Glycoconjugate residues of glycoproteins gradually appear during IBS development. The appropriate expression of these immunophenotypes may play an important role in the normal development of IBS.

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