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Seven Steps to Stellate Cells

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Seven Steps to Stellate Cells

Patrick Maschmeyer et al. J Vis Exp.

Abstract

Hepatic stellate cells are liver-resident cells of star-like morphology and are located in the space of Disse between liver sinusoidal endothelial cells and hepatocytes(1,2). Stellate cells are derived from bone marrow precursors and store up to 80% of the total body vitamin A(1, 2). Upon activation, stellate cells differentiate into myofibroblasts to produce extracellular matrix, thus contributing to liver fibrosis(3). Based on their ability to contract, myofibroblastic stellate cells can regulate the vascular tone associated with portal hypertension(4). Recently, we demonstrated that hepatic stellate cells are potent antigen presenting cells and can activate NKT cells as well as conventional T lymphocytes(5). Here we present a method for the efficient preparation of hepatic stellate cells from mouse liver. Due to their perisinusoidal localization, the isolation of hepatic stellate cells is a multi-step process. In order to render stellate cells accessible to isolation from the space of Disse, mouse livers are perfused in situ with the digestive enzymes Pronase E and Collagenase P. Following perfusion, the liver tissue is subjected to additional enzymatic treatment with Pronase E and Collagenase P in vitro. Subsequently, the method takes advantage of the massive amount of vitamin A-storing lipid droplets in hepatic stellate cells. This feature allows the separation of stellate cells from other hepatic cell types by centrifugation on an 8% Nycodenz gradient. The protocol described here yields a highly pure and homogenous population of stellate cells. Purity of preparations can be assessed by staining for the marker molecule glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), prior to analysis by fluorescence microscopy or flow cytometry. Further, light microscopy reveals the unique appearance of star-shaped hepatic stellate cells that harbor high amounts of lipid droplets. Taken together, we present a detailed protocol for the efficient isolation of hepatic stellate cells, including representative images of their morphological appearance and GFAP expression that help to define the stellate cell entity.

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