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RNA-sequencing-based comparative analysis of human hepatic progenitor cells and their niche from alcoholic steatohepatitis livers

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Olivier GovaereORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Hepatic progenitor cells (HPCs) are small cells with a relative large oval nucleus and a scanty cytoplasm situated in the canals of Hering that express markers of (immature) hepatocytes and cholangiocytes. HPCs are present in large numbers in alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH), one of the leading causes of chronic liver disease. To date, the mechanisms responsible for proliferation and differentiation of human HPCs are still poorly understood and the role of HPCs in ASH development is unknown. In this study, we aimed to characterise human HPCs and their interactions with other cells through comparison, on both protein and RNA level, of HPC-enriched cell populations from adult human liver tissue using different isolation methods. Fresh human liver tissue was collected from ASH explant livers and HPC-enriched cell populations were obtained via four different isolation methods: side population (SP), epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) and trophoblast antigen 2 (TROP-2) membrane marker isolation and laser capture microdissection. Gene expression profiles of fluorescent-activated cell-sorted HPCs, whole liver extracts and laser microdissected HPC niches were determined by RNA-sequencing. Immunohistochemical evaluation of the isolated populations indicated the enrichment of HPCs in the SP, EpCAM + and TROP-2 + cell populations. Pathway analysis of the transcription profiles of human HPCs showed an enrichment and activation of known HPC pathways like Wnt/β-catenin, TWEAK and HGF. Integration of the HPC niche profile suggests autocrine signalling by HPCs (TNFα, PDGFB and VEGFA) as well as paracrine signalling from the surrounding niche cells including MIF and IGF-1. In addition, we identified IL-17 A signalling as a potentially novel pathway in HPC biology. In conclusion, we provide the first RNA-seq-based, comparative transcriptome analysis of isolated human HPCs from ASH patients and revealed active signalling between HPCs and their surrounding niche cells in ASH livers and suggest that HPCs can actively contribute to liver inflammation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ceulemans A, Verhulst S, Van Haele M, Govaere O, Ventura J-J, Van Grunsven LA, Roskams T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cell Death and Disease

Year: 2017

Volume: 8

Issue: 11

Online publication date: 02/11/2017

Acceptance date: 05/09/2017

Date deposited: 21/11/2017

ISSN (print): 2041-4889

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/cddis.2017.543


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