• Open Access

Aging is associated with increased clonogenic potential in rat liver in vivo


Ezio Laconi, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology, Section of Experimental Pathology, University of Cagliari, Via Porcell, 4, 09125 – Cagliari, Italy. Tel.: +39-070-675-8682; fax: +39-070-662574; e-mail: elaconi@unica.it


Cancer increases with age and often arises from the selective clonal growth of altered cells. Thus, any environment favoring clonal growth per se poses a higher risk for cancer development. Using a genetically tagged animal model, we investigated whether aging is associated with increased clonogenic potential. Groups of 4-, 12-, 18-, and 24-month-old Fischer 344 rats were infused (via the portal vein) with 2 × 106 hepatocytes isolated from a normal syngenic 2-month-old donor. Animals deficient in dipeptidyl-peptidase type IV (DPP-IV–) enzyme were used as recipients, allowing for the histochemical detection of injected DPP-IV+ cells. Groups of animals were sacrificed at various times thereafter. No growth of DPP-IV+ transplanted hepatocytes was present after either 2 or 6 months in the liver of rats transplanted at young age, as expected. In striking contrast, significant expansion of donor-derived cells was seen in animals transplanted at the age of 18 months: clusters comprising 7–10 DPP-IV+ hepatocytes/cross-section were present after 2 months and were markedly enlarged after 6 months (mean of 88 ± 35 cells/cluster/cross-section). These results indicate that the microenvironment of the aged liver supports the clonal expansion of transplanted normal hepatocytes. Such clonogenic environments can foster the selective growth of pre-existing altered cells, thereby increasing the overall risk for cancer development associated with aging.