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Abstract

Following hepatic injury, proliferation of anastomosing ductules can be observed. The origin of this ductular reaction is not completely clear, although there is considerable evidence for proliferation of a putative hepatic progenitor cell, reported to be located in the canals of Hering (CoH) and showing morphologic similarities with rat oval cells. In this study, we analyzed the immunophenotype of solitary oval cell–like cells (SOC), intralobular groups of cuboidal cells that might represent lining cells of CoH, bile ductular cells (BDC), bile duct epithelial cells (BEC), and hepatocytes. We used the antibodies OV6, CK19, and CD56 (NCAM) in a double-staining method in a series of 111 liver specimens. The series consisted of a variety of liver diseases, primary liver tumors, and normal livers. In normal livers, SOC, CoH, BDC, and BEC were uniformly and predominantly CK19+, OV6+, and CD56−. In diseased livers SOC and BDC were CK19+, OV6+, and also CD56+. Occasionally, BEC was CD56+ in damaged bile ducts in diseased liver, e.g., PSC. CoH lining cells were not present in cirrhotic nodules and were indistinguishable from BDC in the fibrous septa. The consistent and uniform staining patterns of SOC, CoH, and BDC support the concept that these cells share the same biliary lineage and might represent one biliary structure. The expression of CD56 on these cells in diseased livers indicates that CD56 is a useful marker for a reparative or regenerative state of the biliary liver-cell constituents but not to discriminate a putative hepatic stem cell.