Expression of hepatocytic- and biliary-specific transcription factors in regenerating bile ducts during hepatocyte-to-biliary epithelial cell transdifferentiation
Limaye, Pallavi B
Bowen, William C
Apte, Udayan M
Michalopoulos, George K
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Abstract Background Under compromised biliary regeneration, transdifferentiation of hepatocytes into biliary epithelial cells (BEC) has been previously observed in rats, upon exposure to BEC-specific toxicant methylene dianiline (DAPM) followed by bile duct ligation (BDL), and in patients with chronic biliary liver disease. However, mechanisms promoting such transdifferentiation are not fully understood. In the present study, acquisition of biliary specific transcription factors by hepatocytes leading to reprogramming of BEC-specific cellular profile was investigated as a potential mechanism of transdifferentiation in two different models of compromised biliary regeneration in rats. Results In addition to previously examined DAPM + BDL model, an experimental model resembling chronic biliary damage was established by repeated administration of DAPM. Hepatocyte to BEC transdifferentiation was tracked using dipetidyl dipeptidase IV (DDPIV) chimeric rats that normally carry DPPIV only in hepatocytes. Following DAPM treatment, ~20% BEC population turned DPPIV-positive, indicating that they are derived from DPPIV-positive hepatocytes. New ductules emerging after DAPM + BDL and repeated DAPM exposure expressed hepatocyte-associated transcription factor hepatocyte nuclear factor (HNF) 4α and biliary specific transcription factor HNF1β. In addition, periportal hepatocytes expressed biliary marker CK19 suggesting periportal hepatocytes as a potential source of transdifferentiating cells. Although TGFβ1 was induced, there was no considerable reduction in periportal HNF6 expression, as observed during embryonic biliary development. Conclusions Taken together, these findings indicate that gradual loss of HNF4α and acquisition of HNF1β by hepatocytes, as well as increase in TGFβ1 expression in periportal region, appear to be the underlying mechanisms of hepatocyte-to-BEC transdifferentiation.
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