In vivo cell lineage analysis in cyproterone acetate–treated rat liver using genetic labeling of hepatocytes



Genetic labeling using recombinant retroviruses is a powerful strategy for the study of cell lineage in the liver. However, this type of vector is only able to infect dividing cells. The synthetic steroid cyproterone acetate (CPA) is mitogenic and carcinogenic in the adult rat liver. In this study, we used retroviral vectors carrying the nuclear targeted β-galactosidase gene to selectively label and follow the fate of hepatocytes dividing on administration of CPA. Labeled cells as well as those in mitosis were preferentially located around the portal tract, whereas apoptotic bodies were predominant in the pericentral area. Labeled hepatocytes did not disappear after apoptosis, suggesting a preferential elimination of nontransduced cells. The presence of labeled binucleated hepatocytes showed the persistence of a binucleation process. Finally, we performed long-term analysis of labeled cells in transgenic animals tolerant for β-galactosidase and treated with 2-acetylaminofluorene (2-AAF) to promote the growth of CPA-initiated hepatocytes. The presence of β-galactosidase–positive hepatocyte clones showed that hepatocytes divided during treatment with 2-AAF. Only 3% of β-galactosidase clones were positive for the placental form of glutathione S-transferase (GSTp), indicating the absence of a preferential appearance of preneoplastic foci in the population of β-galactosidase–labeled hepatocytes. In conclusion, our results show that the mitogenic and tumor-initiating activities of CPA are directed toward different hepatocyte populations.