Abstract. The A6 antigen - a surface-exposed component shared by mouse oval and biliary epithelial cells - was examined during prenatal development of mouse in order to elucidate its relation to liver progenitor cells. Immunohistochemical demonstration of the antigen was performed at the light and electron microscopy level beginning from the 9.5 day of gestation (26–28 somite pairs).
Up to the 11.5 day of gestation A6 antigen is found only in the visceral endoderm of yolk sac and gut epithelium, while liver diverticulum and liver are A6-negative. In the liver epithelial lineages A6 antigen behaves as a strong and reliable marker of biliary epithelial cells where it is found beginning from their emergence on the 15th day of gestation. It was not revealed in immature hepato-cytes beginning from the 16th day of gestation. However weak expression of the antigen was observed in hepato-blasts on 12–15 days of gestation possibly reflecting their ability to differentiate along either hepatocyte or biliary epithelial cell lineages.
Surprisingly, A6 antigen turned out to be a peculiar marker of the crythroid lineage: in mouse fetuses it distinguished A6 positive liver and spleen erythroblasts from A6 negative early hemopoietic cells of yolk sac origin. Moreover in the liver, A6 antigen probably distinguishes two waves of erythropoiesis: it is found on the erythroblasts from the 11.5 day of gestation onward while first extravascular erythroblasts appear in the liver on the 10th day of gestation. Both fetal and adult erythrocytes are A6-negative.
In the process of organogenesis A6 antigen was revealed in various mouse fetal organs. Usually it was found on plasma membranes of mucosal or ductular epithelial cells. Investigation of A6 antigen's physiological function would probably explain such specific localization.