• hepatic oval cells;
  • hepatic stellate cells;
  • hepatocyte growth factor;
  • liver regeneration;
  • transforming growth factor-β1

Hepatic stem cell niche plays an important role in hepatic oval cell-mediated liver regeneration. As a component of hepatic stem cell niche, the role of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) in oval cell proliferation needs further studies. In the present study, we isolated HSCs from rats at indicated time point after partial hepatectomy (PH) in 2-acetylaminofluorene/PH oval cell proliferation model. Conditional medium (CM) from HSCs were collected to detect their effects on proliferation and the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway activation of two oval cell lines. We found that CM collected from HSCs at early phase of liver regeneration (4 and 9 days group) contained high levels of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and stimulated oval cell proliferation via extracellular signal-regulated kinase and p38 pathway. CM collected from HSCs at terminal phase of liver regeneration (12 and 15 days group) contained high levels of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, which suppressed DNA synthesis of oval cells. The shift between these two distinct effects depended on the balance between HGF and TGF-β1 secreted by HSCs. Our study demonstrated that HSCs acted as a positive regulator at the early phase and a negative regulator at the terminal phase of the oval cell-mediated liver regeneration. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.