International journal of medical sciences

Establishment and characterization of an immortalized human hepatic stellate cell line for applications in co-culturing with immortalized human hepatocytes.

PMID 25678842


The liver-specific functions of hepatocytes are improved by co-culturing hepatocytes with primary hepatic stellate cells (HSC). However, primary HSC have a short lifespan in vitro, which is considered a major limitation for their use in various applications. This study aimed to establish immortalized human HSC using the simian virus 40 large T antigen (SV40LT) for applications in co-culturing with hepatocytes and HSC in vitro. Primary human HSC were transfected with a recombinant retrovirus containing SV40LT. The immortalized human HSC were characterized by analyzing their gene expression and functional characteristics. The liver-specific functions of hepatocytes were evaluated in a co-culture system incorporating immortalized human hepatocytes with HSC-Li cells. The immortalized HSC line, HSC-Li, was obtained after infection with a recombinant retrovirus containing SV40LT. The HSC-Li cells were longitudinally spindle-like and had numerous fat droplets in their cytoplasm as shown using electron microscopy. Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), VEGF Receptor 1(Flt-1), collagen type Iα1 and Iα2 mRNA expression levels were observed in the HSC-Li cells by RT-PCR. Immunofluorescence staining showed that the HSC-Li cells were positive for α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), platelet-derived growth factor receptor-beta (PDGFR-β), vimentin, and SV40LT protein expression. The HSC-Li cells produced both HGF and transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-β1) in a time-dependent manner. Real-time PCR showed that albumin, CYP3A5, CYP2E1, and UGT2B7 mRNA expression generally increased in the co-culture system. The enzymatic activity of CYP1A2 under the co-culture conditions also generally increased as compared to the monoculture of immortalized human hepatocytes. We successfully established the immortalized human HSC cell line HSC-Li. It has the specific phenotypic and functional characteristics of primary human HSC, which would be a useful tool to develop anti-fibrotic therapies. Co-culturing with the HSC-Li cells improved the liver-specific functions of hepatocytes, which may be valuable and applicable for bioartificial liver systems.