Background: Maintenance of liver-specific functions has been shown to be stabilized by co-cultivation of hepatocytes with hepatic stellate cells (HSC). Because the limited lifespan of human HSC is a major hurdle to their use, the authors report here the amplification of human HSC populations in vitro by retroviral transfer of human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT).
Methods: Human HSC strain LI 90 cells were transduced with a retroviral vector SSR#197 expressing hTERT and green fluorescent protein (GFP) cDNA flanked by a pair of loxP. TWNT-1, one of SSR#197-immortalized HSC, was characterized. Differentiated liver functions were evaluated in an immortalized human hepatocyte NKNT-3-TWNT-1 co-culture system.
Results: TWNT-1 cells showed differential functions of HSC, including uptake of acetylated low-density lipoproteins and synthesis of collagen type I and hepatocyte growth factor. Efficient excision of the retrovirally transferred hTERT and GFP cDNAs was achieved by TAT-mediated expression of the Cre recombinase and subsequent GFP-negative cell sorting. When co-cultured with TWNT-1 cells, NKNT-3 increased protein expression of the detoxifying cytochrome P450-associated protein isoenzymes 3A4 and 2C9 and urea synthesis.
Conclusions: TWNT-1 cells could be valuable in the study of integrated liver functions and contribute to the optimization of liver cell therapies and bioartificial livers.