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Open Access Oct4 Is Crucial for Transdifferentiation of Hepatocytes to Biliary Epithelial Cells in an In Vitro Organoid Culture Model

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Hepatocyte to biliary transdifferentiation has been documented in various models of bile duct injury. In this process, mature hepatocytes transform into mature biliary epithelial cells by acquiring biliary phenotypic markers. Several signaling pathways including PI3 kinase, Notch, Hes1, Sox9, and Hippo are shown to be involved in the process. However, whether Oct4 is involved in hepatocyte to biliary transdifferentiation is unknown. We investigated the role of Oct4 in hepatocyte to biliary transdifferentiation utilizing an in vitro organoid culture system as a model of transdifferentiation. Oct4 was inhibited using adenovirus containing Oct4 shRNA. Hepatocyte-specific HNF-4α and biliary-specific HNF-1β and CK19 expression were assessed to gauge the extent of transdifferentiation. Oct4 was induced during hepatocyte to biliary transdifferentiation. Oct4 inhibition significantly downregulated the appearance of biliary cells from hepatocytes. This was accompanied by a significant downregulation of signaling pathways including Notch, Sox9, and Hippo. Our findings suggest that Oct4 is crucial for hepatocyte to biliary transdifferentiation and maturation and that it acts upstream of Notch, Sox9, and Hippo signaling in this model. This finding identifies new signaling through Oct4 in plasticity between hepatocytes and biliary epithelial cells, which can be potentially utilized to identify new strategies in chronic biliary diseases.
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Keywords: Cholangiocyte differentiation; Cholestatic liver diseases; Organoid culture; Oval cells; Signaling pathways

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Pharmacy, Suwanee, GA, USA 2: Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA 3: Department of Pharmacy Practice, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Pharmacy, Suwanee, GA, USA

Publication date: March 21, 2018

This article was made available online on December 6, 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "Oct4 is crucial for transdifferentiation of hepatocytes to biliary epithelial cells in an in vitro organoid culture model.".

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  • Gene Expression, The Journal of Liver Research will publish articles in all aspects of hepatology. Hepatology, as a research discipline, has seen unprecedented growth especially in the cellular and molecular mechanisms of hepatic health and disease, which continues to have a major impact on understanding liver development, stem cells, carcinogenesis, tissue engineering, injury, repair, regeneration, immunology, metabolism, fibrosis, and transplantation. Continued research and improved understanding in these areas will have a meaningful impact on liver disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. The existing journal Gene Expression has expanded its focus to become Gene Expression, The Journal of Liver Research to meet this growing demand. In its revised and expanded scope, the journal will publish high-impact original articles, reviews, short but complete articles, and special articles (editorials, commentaries, opinions) on all aspects of hepatology, making it a unique and invaluable resource for readers interested in this field. The expanded team, led by an Editor-in-Chief who is uniquely qualified and a renowned expert, along with a dynamic and functional editorial board, is determined to make this a premier journal in the field of hepatology.
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