Heterotypic cell interaction between parenchymal cells and nonparenchymal neighbors has been reported to modulate cell growth, migration, and/or differentiation. In both the developing and adult liver, cell-cell interactions are imperative for coordinated organ function. In vitro, cocultivation of hepatocytes and nonparenchymal cells has been used to preserve and modulate the hepatocyte phenotype. We summarize previous studies in this area as well as recent advances in microfabrication that have allowed for more precise control over cell-cell interactions through 'cellular patterning' or 'micropatterning'. Although the precise mechanisms by which nonparenchymal cells modulate the hepatocyte phenotype remain unelucidated, some new insights on the modes of cell signaling, the extent of cell-cell interaction, and the ratio of cell populations are noted. Proposed clinical applications of hepatocyte cocultures, typically extracorporeal bioartificial liver support systems, are reviewed in the context of these new findings. Continued advances in microfabrication and cell culture will allow further study of the role of cell communication in physiological and pathophysiological processes as well as in the development of functional tissue constructs for medical applications.