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Cholestatic liver injury is associated with intrahepatic biliary fibrosis, which can progress to cirrhosis. Resident hepatic progenitor cells (HPCs) expressing Prominin-1 (Prom1 or CD133) become activated and participate in the expansion of cholangiocytes known as the ductular reaction. Previously, we demonstrated that in biliary atresia, Prom1(+) HPCs are present within developing fibrosis and that null mutation of Prom1 significantly abrogates fibrogenesis. Here, we hypothesized that these activated Prom1-expressing HPCs promote fibrogenesis in cholestatic liver injury. Using Prom1CreERT2-nLacZ/+ ;Rosa26Lsl-GFP/+ mice, we traced the fate of Prom1-expressing HPCs in the growth of the neonatal and adult livers and in biliary fibrosis induced by bile duct ligation (BDL). Prom1-expressing cell lineage labeling with Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) on postnatal day 1 exhibited an expanded population as well as bipotent differentiation potential toward both hepatocytes and cholangiocytes at postnatal day 35. However, in the adult liver, they lost hepatocyte differentiation potential. Upon cholestatic liver injury, adult Prom1-expressing HPCs gave rise to both PROM1(+) and PROM1(-) cholangiocytes contributing to ductular reaction without hepatocyte or myofibroblast differentiation. RNA-sequencing analysis of GFP(+) Prom1-expressing HPC lineage revealed a persistent cholangiocyte phenotype and evidence of Transforming Growth Factor-β pathway activation. When Prom1-expressing cells were ablated with induced Diphtheria toxin in Prom1CreERT-nLacZ/+ ;Rosa26DTA/+ mice, we observed a decrease in ductular reactions and biliary fibrosis typically present in BDL as well as decreased expression of numerous fibrogenic gene markers. Our data indicate that Prom1-expressing HPCs promote biliary fibrosis associated with activation of myofibroblasts in cholestatic liver injury. © 2020 The Authors. Physiological Reports published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of The Physiological Society and the American Physiological Society.


Michael Fenlon, Celia Short, Jiabo Xu, Nicolas Malkoff, Elaa Mahdi, Michelle Hough, Alison Glazier, Calvin Lee, Kinji Asahina, Kasper S Wang. Prominin-1-expressing hepatic progenitor cells induce fibrogenesis in murine cholestatic liver injury. Physiological reports. 2020 Jul;8(14):e14508

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PMID: 32686913

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