Development of the liver: Insights into organ and tissue morphogenesis

J Hepatol. 2018 May;68(5):1049-1062. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2018.01.005. Epub 2018 Jan 13.


Recent development of improved tools and methods to analyse tissues at the three-dimensional level has expanded our capacity to investigate morphogenesis of foetal liver. Here, we review the key morphogenetic steps during liver development, from the prehepatic endoderm stage to the postnatal period, and consider several model organisms while focussing on the mammalian liver. We first discuss how the liver buds out of the endoderm and gives rise to an asymmetric liver. We next outline the mechanisms driving liver and lobe growth, and review morphogenesis of the intra- and extrahepatic bile ducts; morphogenetic responses of the biliary tract to liver injury are discussed. Finally, we describe the mechanisms driving formation of the vasculature, namely venous and arterial vessels, as well as sinusoids.

Keywords: Bile duct; Cholangiocyte; Development; Hepatocyte; Liver; Liver growth; Morphogenesis; Organ asymmetry; Sinusoidal endothelial cell; Tissue architecture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Ducts, Intrahepatic / embryology
  • Biliary Tract / embryology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Humans
  • Liver / blood supply
  • Liver / embryology*
  • Liver / growth & development
  • Models, Biological
  • Morphogenesis
  • Signal Transduction