Expression of nestin-green fluorescent protein transgene marks oval cells in the adult liver

Dev Dyn. 2005 Oct;234(2):413-21. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.20536.


Oval cells, which become apparent in the liver after chronic injury, serve as bipotent progenitors for differentiated hepatocytes and cholangiocytes. We found that, in the liver of adult transgenic mice in which expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) is driven by regulatory elements of the nestin gene, the GFP signal marks a subpopulation of small epithelial cells that meet the criteria for oval cells, including morphology, localization, antigenic profile, and reactivity in response to injury. In the regenerating and developing liver, we also found nestin-GFP-positive cells that express hepatocyte markers; such cells may correspond to transiently appearing differentiating progeny of oval cells. During development, GFP-expressing cells in the liver emerge relatively late, after the appearance of differentiated hepatocytes and cholangiocytes. Our results suggest that nestin-GFP cells in the liver correspond to a specialized cell type whose primary function may be to serve as a reserve for adult liver epithelial cell types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Cell Lineage
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / genetics*
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism
  • Liver / embryology
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Biological
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Nestin
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nes protein, mouse
  • Nestin
  • alpha-Fetoproteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins