Cell lineage analysis during liver development using the spf(ash)-heterozygous mouse

Lab Invest. 2001 Jan;81(1):17-25. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.3780208.


Biliary epithelial cells differentiate from periportal hepatoblasts during fetal mouse liver development. It remains to be determined whether each hepatoblast is equivalent for differentiation into hepatocytes and biliary epithelial cells in normal liver development. To resolve this question, the mosaic pattern of ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) expression was analyzed in the hepatoblast population of spf(ash) (sparse-fur with abnormal skin and hair)-heterozygous fetal mouse livers, in which random inactivation of either the X chromosome carrying the spf(ash) gene (causing OTC deficiency) or its wild-type gene occurs. Aggregates (patches) of OTC-positive hepatoblasts showed very complex patterns, and their shapes and size distributions were similar in sections from periportal regions and nonperiportal regions of the fetal liver in which bile duct differentiation by periportal hepatoblasts occurred. Average sizes of periportal patches were larger than those of nonperiportal patches because of the presence of more hemopoietic cells in the latter region. The OTC mosaicism in periportal bile duct progenitors and hepatoblast islands of other liver parenchyma was also similar. These results suggest that the growth patterns of hepatoblasts are similar in both periportal and nonperiportal regions. Isolated three-dimensional patches comprising hepatoblasts giving rise to only biliary epithelial cells or hepatoblasts giving rise to both hepatocytes and biliary epithelial cells were observed in periportal regions. In nonperiportal regions, patches consisting of hepatoblasts differentiating into hepatocytes were also seen. Thus, it is likely that there are three lineages for the developmental fates of hepatoblasts: hepatoblasts giving rise to only biliary epithelial cells, hepatoblasts giving rise to only hepatocytes, and hepatoblasts giving rise to both of them.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Ducts, Intrahepatic / cytology
  • Bile Ducts, Intrahepatic / embryology
  • Bile Ducts, Intrahepatic / enzymology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / enzymology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Hepatocytes / enzymology
  • Heterozygote
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Liver / cytology*
  • Liver / embryology*
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Mosaicism
  • Ornithine Carbamoyltransferase / genetics
  • Ornithine Carbamoyltransferase Deficiency Disease
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / enzymology


  • Ornithine Carbamoyltransferase