Immunofluorescent Staining of Human Hepatic Multicellular Spheroids: A Model for Studying Liver Diseases

Methods Mol Biol. 2024:2769:143-152. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-3694-7_11.


In vitro studies on liver diseases, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, fibrosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma, are traditionally performed in two-dimensional (2D) cultures of isolated primary cells or immortalized cell lines. However, this approach has limitations, as 2D cultures inadequately replicate the cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions found in three-dimensional (3D) environments. To overcome this limitation, various 3D models, such as spheroids, have been developed. These spheroids serve as simplified biomimetic in vitro models for studying liver diseases. They can be generated using a variety of cells from healthy and pathological tissues, including liver cancer. Here, we present a comprehensive protocol for performing immunofluorescent staining and confocal imaging on whole human hepatic multicellular spheroids, utilizing primary cells or cell lines. The immunofluorescence technique is a potent tool to understand the spatial distribution of different cell types within the spheroids and define the interactions that occur among these cells.

Keywords: Cancer; Hepatocytes; Immunofluorescence; Liver diseases; Spheroids.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Humans
  • Liver*
  • Spheroids, Cellular*