Defining the functional role of laminin isoforms in the regulation of the adult hepatic progenitor cell
Williams, Michael John
During chronic and severe acute liver injury, regeneration is thought to occur through hepatic progenitor cells (HPCs). Understanding the regulation of HPCs may offer therapeutic opportunities to enhance liver regeneration. HPCs are associated with an increase in laminins in the extracellular matrix. Laminins are heterotrimeric proteins, composed of an alpha, beta and gamma chain. There are 5 alpha chains with different distributions and functions, but the relative contributions of these in HPC-mediated liver regeneration are not known. My aims were to describe the laminin alpha chains associated with the HPC response and to define the functional effects of specific laminin chains on HPCs. I examined the laminin alpha chains in two mouse models of HPC activation: a transgenic model using conditional deletion of Mdm2 in hepatocytes, and a dietary model using 3,5-diethoxycarbonyl-1,4-dihydrocollidine (DDC). The laminin alpha 5 (Lama5) chain is significantly upregulated in both models and forms a basement membrane which surrounds the progenitor cells. I have also demonstrated Lama5 expression in the ductular reaction seen in human liver disease. Using primary mouse cell cultures, I have shown that Lama5 is produced predominantly by the HPCs themselves, rather than by stellate cells. The HPCs express the cell surface receptor alpha-6 beta-1 integrin, a binding partner of Lama5. I then studied the functional effects of matrix on cell behaviour in vitro using recombinant laminins and a line of spontaneously immortalised mouse HPCs. Compared to other laminin chains, Lama5 selectively promotes HPC adhesion and spreading. These effects are partially blocked by antibodies against beta-1 integrin. Lama5 also significantly enhances HPC migration, resulting in an increase in cell migration. Furthermore, only Lama5 enhances HPC survival in serum-free medium, with an increase in cell viability. Culturing HPCs on HPCs maintained in culture on plastic synthesise Lama5 chain. Knock-down of endogenous Lama5 production using siRNA results in reduced proliferation and increased hepatocytic differentiation, with increased albumin production. I then studied the effects in vivo using transgenic Cre-lox mouse strains that allow conditional knock-out of either laminin alpha 5 or beta-1 integrin in HPCs. The effects of gene deletion were examined in healthy mice and two dietary models of HPC activation: the DDC diet and a choline-deficient, ethionine-supplemented (CDE) diet. Although these experiments were limited by a low number of experimental animals and low recombination rates, there was a suggestion of impaired HPC expansion associated with loss of laminin alpha 5. There was also a significant increase in hepatocellular injury and fibrosis in response to the DDC diet seen with loss of laminin alpha 5 expression. Laminin alpha 5-containing matrix is deposited around HPCs during liver regeneration and supports progenitor cell attachment, migration and maintenance of an undifferentiated phenotype. This work identifies a novel target for enhancing liver regeneration.