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In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Anim. 1998 Oct;34(9):704-10.

Characterization and growth regulation of a rat intrahepatic bile duct epithelial cell line under hormonally defined, serum-free conditions.

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Center for Basic Research in Digestive Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Medical School, Clinic and Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.


Bile duct epithelial cells, or cholangiocytes, proliferate in vivo under a number of pathologic (i.e., partial hepatectomy) and pathophysiologic (i.e., bile duct ligation, malignant transformation) conditions. However, little is known about the possible growth factors that modulate these proliferative responses, in part because an in vitro model to study proliferation of nontransformed, normal cholangiocytes is not available. We report here the development of a rat cholangiocyte cell line (MMRC, minimal media-requiring rat cholangiocytes) that grows under hormonally defined, serum-free conditions on plastic and maintains a cholangiocyte phenotype. Morphologic as well as functional studies indicate that the cell line is polarized and actively transports fluid and electrolytes in an apical to basolateral direction. MMRC, when cultured for 24 mo. and passaged 80 times, have not undergone malignant transformation, because the cell line failed to grow under anchorage-independent conditions or in nude mice. Cellular proliferation is accelerated 2-8-fold by insulin, insulin-like growth factor 1, epidermal growth factor, and hepatocyte growth factor, growth factors known to stimulate tyrosine kinase receptors, and inhibited 2-10-fold by TGFbeta and IL-2. Glyco-conjugates of primary (i.e., cholic and chenodeoxycholic acid) and secondary bile acids (i.e., deoxycholic and lithocholic acid) do not alter proliferation at low concentration (1 microM), but are toxic at higher concentration (10 microM). In summary, we have developed and characterized a cholangiocyte cell line derived from normal rat liver, which grows under hormonally defined, serum-free conditions, maintains a nonmalignant, cholangiocyte phenotype, displays morphologic and functional features of polarity, and alters its proliferation rate in response to a variety of growth factors.

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