Oligosaccharides serve as markers of the cell surface and have been used as certain kinds of tumor markers. In the present study, we established a simple method for isolating hepatic progenitor cells using a lectin, which recognizes a characteristic oligosaccharide structure. Rat liver epithelial (RLE) cells, which have been established as a hepatic stem-like cell, were used to identify characteristic oligosaccharide structures on hepatic stem cells. As a result from lectin micro array, several types of lectin including E4-PHA were identified to bind RLE cells specifically. Furthermore, lectin blot and lectin flow cytometry analyses showed that binding to E(4)-PHA lectin was significantly increased in RLE cells, compared to hepatocytes, and hepatoma cells. The induction of differentiation into a hepatocyte lineage of RLE cells by treatment with Oncostatin M and dexamethasone resulted in a decrease in E(4)-PHA binding. Using an E(4)-PHA column, we succeeded in isolating hepatic stem cells from LEC (Long-Evans with cinnamon coat color) rat livers with fluminant hepatitis. The characteristics of the established cells were similar to RLE cells and had a potential of proliferating in rat liver. These results suggest that oligosaccharides can serve as a novel marker for the isolation of the hepatic progenitor cells.