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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Proliferation of Epidermal Growth Factor-stimulated Hepatocytes in a Hormonally Defined Serum-free Medium

Peggy Papeleu, Pascal Loyer, Tamara Vanhaecke, Tom Henkens, Greetje Elaut, Christiane Guguen-Guillouzo and Vera Rogiers

The present study shows that adult rat hepatocytes in primary culture, which normally exhibit a restricted capacity to proliferate, can proceed through the cell cycle when cultured in a mixture of minimal essential medium (MEM) and Medium 199 (MEM–M199; 3:1, v/v), containing epidermal growth factor (EGF; 50ng/ml), low glucose (0.75g/l) and low levels of inorganic salts, amino acids and vitamins. Under these conditions, hepatocytes flatten and cell extensions appear. In contrast, Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium (DMEM) containing high glucose (4.5g/l) levels enriched with inorganic salts, amino acids and vitamins favours maintenance of differentiated functional hepatocyte capacities (albumin secretion), but does not allow proliferation or cell spreading. Cultivation of hepatocytes in MEM–M199 (3:1, v/v) results in the onset of DNA synthesis at 48 hours of culture and a concomitant induction of cyclin D1 protein. Under these conditions, cells successively progress through the mitogen-dependent restriction point in mid-late G1 phase, G1/S transition and S phase, as evidenced by Western blot analysis of the markers cyclins E and A and cyclin dependent kinase (CDK)2 and CDK1, respectively. Progression through the cell cycle is accompanied by a decrease in albumin secretion, indicating a decline in differentiated capacities. This study demonstrates that hepatocytes cultured in a mixture of MEM–M199 (3:1) provide a useful in vitro model for studying the regulation of hepatocyte proliferation.