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Adult rat hepatocytes assemble to form multicellular spheroids under non-adherent environments such as immobilized chondroitin sulfate-proteoglycan in primary culture. Previously, we demonstrated that hepatocyte spheroids exhibited various differentiated structures as observed in the liver tissue. It was also shown that hepatocyte growth was highly suppressed and several differentiated functions, including albumin production and gluconeogenesis, were well preserved in spheroids. To investigate the differentiated functions of cultured hepatocytes in relation to cell morphology, we compared the expression of the albumin and transferrin genes in spheroids with those in monolayers by Northern blot analysis. Production of these proteins in the culture medium was simultaneously examined by ELISA. Gene expression and protein production of both albumin and transferrin were better preserved in spheroids. We also examined changes in the expression of liver-specific genes in response to IL-6. Reduced mRNA levels of both albumin and transferrin was only found in spheroids and no change was observed in monolayers. These results suggest that the regulation of tissue-specific gene expression is better preserved in spheroids, in which hepatocytes are in close contact with each other.
Acta Medica Okayama
Okayama University Medical School
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