Co-Culture of Human Mesenchymal Stromal Cells and Primary Mouse Hepatocytes

Methods Mol Biol. 2021:2269:151-165. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-1225-5_11.


Human mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) are adult stem cells, which feature hepatotropism by supporting liver regeneration through amelioration of hepatic inflammation and lipid accumulation in a mouse model of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a more advanced stage of fatty liver. It remains open, how MSC impact on hepatocytic lipid metabolism. To study MSC actions on fatty liver mechanistically, we established an in vitro model of co-culture comprising MSC and isolated mouse hepatocytes at a ratio of 1:1. Lipid storage in hepatocytes was induced by the treatment with medium deficiency of methionine and choline (MCD). The protocol can be adapted for the use of other lipid storage-inducing agents such as palmitic acid and linoleic acid. This co-culture model allows to study, e.g., whether MSC act indirectly via MSC-born paracrine mechanisms or through direct physical interactions between cells beside others. The protocol allows us to detect the formation of extensions (filopodia) from MSC to contact the fatty hepatocytes or other MSC within 24 h of co-culture. These structures may represent tunneling nanotubes (TNT), allowing for long-range intercellular communication.

Keywords: Co-culture; Fatty liver; Mesenchymal stromal cells; Primary hepatocytes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / pathology
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / pathology
  • Paracrine Communication*