Hepatic progenitor cells in human fetal liver express the oval cell marker Thy-1

Neil M Masson, Ian S Currie, John D Terrace, O James Garden, Rowan W Parks, James A Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hepatic progenitor cells play a major role in regenerating diseased liver. In rodents, progenitors forming hepatocytes or cholangiocytes are identified by the stem cell marker Thy-1. The aim of this study was to ascertain whether progenitor cells expressing Thy-1 could be identified in human fetal liver. Midtrimester human fetal liver was immunostained for Thy-1, cytokeratins 18 and 19, vimentin, CD34, CD45, and fibrinogen. Thy-1+ and Thy-1+CD34+ populations were purified using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). Immunofluorescence and mRNA expression were used to examine the bipotential nature of purified stem cells. We found that Thy-1+ cells were concentrated in portal tracts but were also scattered in parenchyma. In FACS-prepared cells, 0.18-3.08% (median 0.65%, n = 14) of cells were Thy-1+. Immunophenotyping revealed that some Thy-1+ cells coexpressed cytokeratins 18 and 19, others, fibrinogen and cytokeratin 19. RT-PCR demonstrated that Thy-1+ cells expressed mRNA for Thy-1, cytokeratin 18, and cytokeratin 19, and Thy-1+CD34+ cells expressed mRNA for alpha-fetoprotein, transferrin, and hepatocyte nuclear factor-4alpha. Thy-1+ cells were identified in fetal liver. These cells expressed several lineage markers, including coexpression of biliary and hepatocellular proteins and mRNA. These data suggest that Thy-1 is a marker of liver stem cells in human fetal liver.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G45-54
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006


  • Antigens, Thy-1
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Hepatocytes
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Liver
  • Stem Cells
  • Tissue Distribution


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