Background: GATA6, a transcription factor expressed in cholangiocytes, has been implicated in the response to liver injury. In biliary atresia, a disease characterized by extrahepatic bile duct obstruction, liver expression of GATA6 increases with pathological bile duct expansion and decreases after successful Kasai portoenterostomy. The aim of this study was to garner genetic evidence that GATA6 is involved in ductular formation/expansion. Methods: The murine Gata6 gene was conditionally deleted using Alb-cre, a transgene expressed in hepatoblasts (the precursors of hepatocytes and cholangiocytes) and mature hepatocytes. Bile duct ligation (BDL) was used to model biliary obstruction. Results: Alb-Cre;Gata6flox/flox mice were viable and fertile. Cre-mediated recombination of Gata6 in hepatocytes had little impact on cellular structure or function. GATA6 immunoreactivity was retained in a majority of biliary epithelial cells in adult Alb-Cre;Gata6flox/flox mice, implying that surviving cholangiocytes were derived from hepatoblasts that had escaped biallelic Cre-mediated recombination. Although GATA6 immunoreactivity was preserved in cholangiocytes, Alb-cre;Gata6flox/flox mice had a demonstrable biliary phenotype. A neutrophil-rich infiltrate surrounded newly formed bile ducts in neonatal Alb-Cre;Gata6flox/flox mice. Foci of fibrosis/necrosis, presumed to reflect patchy defects in bile duct formation, were observed in the livers of 37% of adult Alb-cre;Gata6flox/flox mice and 0% of controls (p < 0.05). Most notably, Alb-cre;Gata6flox/flox mice had an altered response to BDL manifest as reduced survival, impaired bile ductule proliferation, increased parenchymal necrosis, reduced fibrosis, and enhanced macrophage accumulation in the portal space. Conclusions: GATA6 orchestrates intrahepatic biliary remodeling and mitigates liver injury following extrahepatic bile duct obstruction. Graphic abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-178
Number of pages13
JournalHepatology International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Biliary atresia
  • Biliary obstruction
  • Cholangiocyte
  • GATA factor
  • Gene expression
  • Hepatocyte
  • Liver
  • Mouse
  • Partial hepatectomy
  • Transcription factor


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