Hepatocyte turnover and regeneration: Virtually a virtuoso performance


  • Malcolm R. Alison Ph.D., D.Sc.,

    1. Centre for Diabetes, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
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  • Wey-Ran Lin M.D.

    1. Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan
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The liver and exocrine pancreas share a common structure, with functioning units (hepatic plates and pancreatic acini) connected to the ductal tree. Here we show that Sox9 is expressed throughout the biliary and pancreatic ductal epithelia, which are connected to the intestinal stem-cell zone. Cre-based lineage tracing showed that adult intestinal cells, hepatocytes and pancreatic acinar cells are supplied physiologically from Sox9-expressing progenitors. Combination of lineage analysis and hepatic injury experiments showed involvement of Sox9-positive precursors in liver regeneration. Embryonic pancreatic Sox9-expressing cells differentiate into all types of mature cells, but their capacity for endocrine differentiation diminishes shortly after birth, when endocrine cells detach from the epithelial lining of the ducts and form the islets of Langerhans. We observed a developmental switch in the hepatic progenitor cell type from Sox9-negative to Sox9-positive progenitors as the biliary tree develops. These results suggest interdependence between the structure and homeostasis of endodermal organs, with Sox9 expression being linked to progenitor status.