Intrahepatic bile ducts develop according to a new mode of tubulogenesis regulated by the transcription factor SOX9.

Université catholique de Louvain, de Duve Institute, Brussels, Belgium.
Gastroenterology (Impact Factor: 12.82). 02/2009; 136(7):2325-33. DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2009.02.051
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT A number of diseases are characterized by defective formation of the intrahepatic bile ducts. In the embryo, hepatoblasts differentiate to cholangiocytes, which give rise to the bile ducts. Here, we investigated duct development in mouse liver and characterized the role of the SRY-related HMG box transcription factor 9 (SOX9).
We identified SOX9 as a new biliary marker and used it in immunostaining experiments to characterize bile duct morphogenesis. The expression of growth factors was determined by in situ hybridization and immunostaining, and their role was studied on cultured hepatoblasts. SOX9 function was investigated by phenotyping mice with a liver-specific inactivation of Sox9.
Biliary tubulogenesis started with formation of asymmetrical ductal structures, lined on the portal side by cholangiocytes and on the parenchymal side by hepatoblasts. When the ducts grew from the hilum to the periphery, the hepatoblasts lining the asymmetrical structures differentiated to cholangiocytes, thereby allowing formation of symmetrical ducts lined only by cholangiocytes. We also provide evidence that transforming growth factor-beta promotes differentiation of the hepatoblasts lining the asymmetrical structures. In the absence of SOX9, the maturation of asymmetrical structures into symmetrical ducts was delayed. This was associated with abnormal expression of CCAAT/Enhancer Binding Protein alpha and Homolog of Hairy/Enhancer of Split-1, as well as of the transforming growth factor-beta receptor type II, which are regulators of biliary development.
Our results suggest that biliary development proceeds according to a new mode of tubulogenesis characterized by transient asymmetry and whose timing is controlled by SOX9.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Abstract Primary hepatocytes rapidly dedifferentiate when cultured in vitro. We have studied the mechanism of hepatocyte dedifferentiation by using two culture media: one that maintains hepatocytes in a differentiated state and another that allows dedifferentiation. We show that dedifferentiation involves partial transformation of hepatocytes into cells that resemble biliary epithelial cells. Lineage labeling and time-lapse filming confirm that the dedifferentiated cells are derived from hepatocytes and not from contaminating ductal or fibroblastic cells in the original culture. Furthermore, we establish that the conversion of hepatocytes to biliary-like cells is regulated by mutual antagonism of CCAAT/enhancer binding protein alpha (C/EBPα) and SOX9, which have opposing effects on the expression of hepatocyte and ductal genes. Thus, hepatocyte dedifferentiation induces the biliary gene expression program by alleviating C/EBPα-mediated repression of Sox9. We propose that reciprocal antagonism of C/EBPα and SOX9 also operates in the formation of hepatocytes and biliary ducts from hepatoblasts during normal embryonic development. These data demonstrate that reprogramming of differentiated cells can be used to model the acquisition and maintenance of cell fate in vivo.
    Cellular Reprogramming 08/2014; · 2.35 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Patients affected by liver diseases and diabetes mellitus are in need for sources of new cells to enable a better transition into clinic programs of cell therapy and regenerative medicine. In this setting, fetal liver is becoming the most promising and available source of cells. Fetal liver displays unique characteristics given the possibility to isolate cell populations with a wide spectrum of endodermal differentiation and, the co-existence of endodermal and mesenchymal-derived cells. Thus, the fetal liver is a unique and highly available cell source contemporarily candidate for the regenerative medicine of both liver and pancreas. The purpose of this review is to revise the recent literature on the different stem cells populations isolable from fetal liver and candidate to cell therapy of liver diseases and diabetes and to discuss advantages and limitation with respect to other cell sources.
    Annals of translational medicine. 07/2013; 1(2):13.
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Notch signaling plays an acknowledged role in bile-duct development, but its involvement in cholangiocyte-fate determination remains incompletely understood. We investigated the effects of early Notch2 deletion in Notch2fl/fl/Alfp-Cretg/− (“Notch2-cKO”) and Notch2fl/fl/Alfp-Cre−/− (“control”) mice. Fetal and neonatal Notch2-cKO livers were devoid of cytokeratin19 (CK19)-, Dolichos-biflorus agglutinin (DBA)-, and SOX9-positive ductal structures, demonstrating absence of prenatal cholangiocyte differentiation. Despite extensive cholestatic hepatocyte necrosis and growth retardation, mortality was only ~15%. Unexpectedly, a slow process of secondary cholangiocyte differentiation and bile-duct formation was initiated around weaning that histologically resembled the ductular reaction. Newly formed ducts varied from rare and non-connected, to multiple, disorganized tubular structures that connected to the extrahepatic bile ducts. Jaundice had disappeared in ~30% of Notch2-cKO mice by 6 months. The absence of Notch Intracellular Domain (NICD) in postnatally differentiating cholangiocyte nuclei of Notch2-cKO mice showed that these cells had not originated from non-recombined precursor cells. Notch2 and Hnf6 mRNA levels were permanently decreased in Notch2-cKO livers. Perinatally, Foxa1, Foxa2, Hhex, Hnf1β, Cebpα and Sox9 mRNA levels were all significantly lower in Notch2-cKO than control mice, but all except Foxa2 returned to normal or increased levels after weaning, coincident with the observed secondary bile-duct formation. Interestingly, Hhex and Sox9 mRNA levels remained elevated in icteric 6 months old Notch2-cKOs, but decreased to control levels in non-icteric Notch2-cKOs, implying a key role in secondary bile-duct formation. Conclusion Cholangiocyte differentiation becomes progressively less dependent on NOTCH2 signaling with age, suggesting that ductal-plate formation is dependent on NOTCH2, but subsequent cholangiocyte differentiation is not.
    Developmental Biology 10/2014; · 3.64 Impact Factor

Full-text (2 Sources)

Available from
Jun 2, 2014