Immunolocalization of putative human liver progenitor cells in livers from patients with end-stage primary biliary cirrhosis and sclerosing cholangitis using the monoclonal antibody OV-6

Am J Pathol. 1998 Mar;152(3):771-9.


The term oval cell describes small cells with oval nuclei that arise in the periphery of the portal tracts in rat models of hepatocarcinogenesis and injury and can differentiate into either hepatocytes or bile duct cells, ie, are bipotential. The presence of such cells in human liver is controversial. Here, immunolocalization of OV-6 and two biliary markers, cytokeratin 19 (CK-19) and human epithelial antigen 125 (HEA-125) is compared in normal adult human livers and in primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) liver sections. CK-19 and HEA-125 stained bile ducts and ductules in normal liver as well as proliferating ductular structures in diseased livers. OV-6 did not label ducts or ductules in normal liver, but in PBC and PSC stained numerous proliferating ductular and periductular cells and lobular hepatocytes. In PBC, discrete OV-6-positive cells with a mature biliary-cell-like morphology were seen integrated into some intact bile ducts as well as occasional small immature oval-like cells. In addition, in PSC, hepatocytes in regenerating lobules were also strongly stained with OV-6, and on close inspection, in both PBC and PSC, oval cells and small hepatocytes at the margins of the lobules were strongly labeled. In contrast to the rat liver, OV-6 and CK-19 staining did not always co-localize. It is proposed that the small OV-6-positive oval cells are analogous to those seen in rat models and may represent human liver progenitor cells that may differentiate into OV-6-positive ductal cells or lobular hepatocytes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology
  • Antigens, Surface / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers
  • CA-125 Antigen / metabolism
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholangitis, Sclerosing / metabolism*
  • Cholangitis, Sclerosing / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Infant
  • Keratins / metabolism
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / metabolism*
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / pathology
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Middle Aged
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Biomarkers
  • CA-125 Antigen
  • oval cell antigen, human
  • Keratins