• Fusion;
  • Hepatocytes;
  • Hematopoietic stem cells;
  • Plasticity


Following reports of lineage plasticity in human hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), we investigated the potential of human cord blood HSC-enriched cells to create hepatocytes in hosts after inducing liver damage. Carbon tetrachloride induces severe liver damage and subsequent repair via mitosis of resident hepatocytes. It additionally leads to a threefold increase in homing of human mononuclear cells to bone marrow and liver and subsequently to a substantial enhancement of bone marrow engraftment. Eight weeks after liver damage and infusion of an enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) lentivirus-transduced human HSC-enriched cell population, we observed eGFP-positive cells with clear hepatocyte morphology in the livers of animals. These eGFP-positive cells co-expressed human albumin, and reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis demonstrated the presence of human albumin and α-anti-trypsin mRNA. However, two antibodies against human mitochondria and human nuclei failed to mark eGFP-positive hepatocyte-like cells but did give clear staining of donor-derived hematopoietic cells. Subsequent fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis revealed the presence of mouse Y chromosome in eGFP-positive hepatocyte-like cells. To resolve this discrepancy, we performed single-cell PCR analysis of microdissected eGFP-positive hepatocyte-like cells and found that they contained mostly mouse and little human genomic material. FISH analysis highlighting the centromeres of all human chromosomes revealed only few human chromosomes in these cells. From these results, we conclude that similar to their murine counterparts, human hematopoietic cells have the potential to fuse with resident host hepatocytes. Because no selective pressure is applied to retain the human genomic material, it is gradually lost over time, leading to a variable phenotype of the chimeric cells and making their detection difficult.