Generation and characterization of rat liver stem cell lines and their engraftment in a rat model of liver failure

Sci Rep. 2016 Feb 26:6:22154. doi: 10.1038/srep22154.


The rat is an important model for liver regeneration. However, there is no in vitro culture system that can capture the massive proliferation that can be observed after partial hepatectomy in rats. We here describe the generation of rat liver stem cell lines. Rat liver stem cells, which grow as cystic organoids, were characterized by high expression of the stem cell marker Lgr5, by the expression of liver progenitor and duct markers, and by low expression of hepatocyte markers, oval cell markers, and stellate cell markers. Prolonged cultures of rat liver organoids depended on high levels of WNT-signalling and the inhibition of BMP-signaling. Upon transplantation of clonal lines to a Fah(-/-) Il2rg(-/-) rat model of liver failure, the rat liver stem cells engrafted into the host liver where they differentiated into areas with FAH and Albumin positive hepatocytes. Rat liver stem cell lines hold potential as consistent reliable cell sources for pharmacological, toxicological or metabolic studies. In addition, rat liver stem cell lines may contribute to the development of regenerative medicine in liver disease. To our knowledge, the here described liver stem cell lines represent the first organoid culture system in the rat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / pharmacology
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / transplantation*
  • Hydrolases / deficiency
  • Hydrolases / genetics
  • Interleukin Receptor Common gamma Subunit / deficiency
  • Interleukin Receptor Common gamma Subunit / genetics
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver Failure / pathology
  • Liver Failure / therapy*
  • Liver Regeneration / physiology*
  • Liver Transplantation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Transgenic
  • Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Wnt3A Protein / pharmacology


  • Biomarkers
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Interleukin Receptor Common gamma Subunit
  • Wnt3A Protein
  • noggin protein
  • Hydrolases
  • fumarylacetoacetase