[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The matrilins represent a new family of oligomeric proteins that are assumed to act as adapter molecules connecting other proteins and proteoglycans in the extracellular matrix. Matrilin-2, the largest member of the family, displays a broad tissue distribution. It incorporates into loose and dense connective tissue and becomes associated with some basement membranes. The aim of our study was to analyse the expression of matrilin-2 in two liver regeneration models and to identify its cellular origin. Liver regeneration was induced in rats by partial hepatectomy (PH) and by the 2-acetylaminofluorene (AAF)/partial hepatectomy (PH) experimental models. Formalin fixed, paraffin embedded tissue sections were used for immunohistochemistry applying a rabbit matrilin-2 polyclonal antibody. Matrilin-2 was detected in normal rat liver and partially hepatectomized liver in the portal area, but could not be demonstrated in the acini. Matrilin-2 mRNA expression was analysed by RT-PCR and in situ hybridization. In the AAF/PH model the oval cells but not the hepatocytes produced matrilin-2 mRNA. Increase in protein level in the AAF/PH regenerating liver model was demonstrated by Western blotting. The protein was present in the basement membrane zone around the tubules formed by oval cells. Our data show that hepatic oval cells produce matrilin-2, a novel ECM protein, suggesting that matrilin-2 is an important component of ECM during stem cell-driven liver regeneration.