A rapid two-step method for isolation of functional primary mouse hepatocytes: cell characterization and asialoglycoprotein receptor based assay development

Cytotechnology. 2012 Mar;64(2):187-95. doi: 10.1007/s10616-011-9407-0. Epub 2011 Nov 22.


Primary mouse hepatocytes are an important tool in the biomedical research field for the assessment of hepatocyte function. Several methods for hepatocyte isolation have been published; however, many of these methods require extensive handling and can therefore compromise the viability and function of the isolated cells. Since one advantage of utilizing freshly isolated cells is to maintain an environment in which the cells are more comparable to their in vivo state, it is important to have robust methods that produce cells with high viability, good purity and that function in a similar manner to that in their in vivo state. Here we describe a modified two-step method for the rapid isolation and characterization of mouse primary hepatocytes that results in high yields of viable cells. The asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGPR), which is one of the most abundant cell surface receptors on hepatocytes, was used to monitor the function of the isolated hepatocytes by demonstrating specific binding of its ligand using a newly developed flow cytometry based ligand-receptor binding assay. Also, an in vitro screening method for siRNA drug candidates was successfully developed utilizing freshly isolated hepatocytes with minimum culture time.