Determining Bile Duct Density in the Mouse Liver

J Vis Exp. 2019 Apr 30;(146):10.3791/59587. doi: 10.3791/59587.


Mouse is broadly used as a model organism to study biliary diseases. To evaluate the development and function of the biliary system, various techniques are used, including serum chemistry, histological analysis, and immunostaining for specific markers. Although these techniques can provide important information about the biliary system, they often do not present a full picture of bile duct (BD) developmental defects across the whole liver. This is in part due to the robust ability of the mouse liver to drain the bile even in animals with significant impairment in biliary development. Here we present a simple method to calculate the average number of BDs associated with each portal vein (PV) in sections covering all lobes of mutant/transgenic mice. In this method, livers are mounted and sectioned in a stereotypic manner to facilitate comparison among various genotypes and experimental conditions. BDs are identified via light microscopy of cytokeratin-stained cholangiocytes, and then counted and divided by the total number of PVs present in liver section. As an example, we show how this method can clearly distinguish between wild-type mice and a mouse model of Alagille syndrome. The method presented here cannot substitute for techniques that visualize the three-dimensional structure of the biliary tree. However, it offers an easy and direct way to quantitatively assess BD development and the degree of ductular reaction formation in mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Ducts / anatomy & histology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Liver / anatomy & histology*
  • Liver / blood supply
  • Liver Diseases / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Portal Vein / anatomy & histology