Modulation of mitogen-independent hepatocyte proliferation during the perinatal period in the rat

Philip A. Gruppuso, Michael Awad, Theresa C. Bienieki, Joan M. Boylan, Shaneli Fernando, Ronald A. Faris

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27 Scopus citations


Late gestation fetal rat hepatocytes can proliferate under defined in vitro conditions in the absence of added mitogens. However, this capacity declines with advancing gestational age of the fetus from which the hepatocytes are derived. The present studies were undertaken to investigate this change in fetal hepatocyte growth regulation. Examination of E19 fetal hepatocyte primary cultures using immunocytochemistry for 5-bromo-2'- deoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation showed that approximately 80% of these cells traverse S-phase of the cell cycle over the first 48 h in culture. Similarly, 65% of El9 hepatocytes maintained in culture under defined mitogen-free conditions for 24 h showed nuclear expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). These in vitro findings correlated with a high level of immunoreactive PCNA in immunofluorescent analyses of E19 liver. In contrast, E21 (term) liver showed little immunoreactive PCNA. The in vivo finding was recapitulated by in vitro studies showing that E21 hepatocytes had low levels of BrdU incorporation during the first day in culture and were PCNA negative shortly after isolation. However, within 12 h of plating, E21 hepatocytes showed cytoplasmic staining for PCNA. Although maintained under mitogen-free conditions, PCNA expression progressed synchronously to a nucleolar staining pattern at 24 to 48 h in culture followed by intense, diffuse nuclear staining at 60 h which disappeared by 72 h. This apparently synchronous cell cycle progression was confirmed by studies showing peak BrdU incorporation on the third day in culture. Whereas DNA synthesis by both E19 and E21 hepatocytes was potentiated by transforming growth factor α (TGFα), considerable mitogen-independent DNA synthesis was seen in hepatocytes from both gestational ages. These results may indicate that fetal hepatocytes come under the influence of an exogenous, in vivo growth inhibitory factor as term approaches and that this effect is relieved when term fetal hepatocytes are cultured.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)562-568
Number of pages7
JournalIn Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Animal
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1997


  • Cell cycle
  • Fetal
  • Growth
  • Growth factor
  • Hepatocytes
  • Liver


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