Development of pancreatic hepatocytes in adult rats maintained on copper deficient diet containing 0.6% trien (CuDT) has been reported recently. To elucidate the histogenesis of hepatocytes a sequential study was undertaken using morphologic, histochemical, immunochemical, in situ hybridization, and Northern blot analysis. Male F-344 rats weighing 80 to 90 g were fed CuDT for 8 weeks and returned to normal rat chow. Beginning from 4 weeks of copper depletion, there was a progressive loss of acinar cells and by 8 weeks more than 90% of the acinar tissue was lost. During this period, there was an increase in the number of adipocytes in the interstitium, and in the number of interstitial and ductular cells. Morphologic observations were confirmed by immunoblot and Northern blot analysis, in which the amount of pancreatic proteins and their mRNAs decreased between 5 and 8 weeks. During this period, a progressive increase in the level of albumin mRNA was observed. In situ hybridization, performed at 7 weeks of copper deficiency, showed localization of albumin mRNA over interstitial and ductular cells. Pancreatic hepatocytes were identified immediately after the rats were returned to a normal diet and gradually increased in number. The hepatocytes occupied almost 60% of the pancreatic volume by 8 weeks. During the early recovery phase, hepatocytes were identified in ductules as well as in the interstitium. Based on these studies, it is concluded that both the ductular cells and interstitial cells, which resemble oval cells of liver, are capable of transforming into pancreatic hepatocytes and these cells may be considered stem-cell equivalent.