In vitro expansion of single Lgr5+ liver stem cells induced by Wnt-driven regeneration.

February 14, 2013

Hubrecht Organoid Technology

In vitro expansion of single Lgr5+ liver stem cells induced by Wnt-driven regeneration.

Nature. 2013 Feb 14;494(7436):247-50. doi: 10.1038/nature11826. Epub 2013 Jan 27.


Huch M1, Dorrell C, Boj SF, van Es JH, Li VS, van de Wetering M, Sato T, Hamer K, Sasaki N, Finegold MJ, Haft A, Vries RG, Grompe M, Clevers H.



The Wnt target gene Lgr5 (leucine-rich-repeat-containing G-protein-coupled receptor 5) marks actively dividing stem cells in Wnt-driven, self-renewing tissues such as small intestine and colon, stomach and hair follicles. A three-dimensional culture system allows long-term clonal expansion of single Lgr5(+) stem cells into transplantable organoids (budding cysts) that retain many characteristics of the original epithelial architecture. A crucial component of the culture medium is the Wnt agonist RSPO1, the recently discovered ligand of LGR5. Here we show that Lgr5-lacZ is not expressed in healthy adult liver, however, small Lgr5-LacZ(+) cells appear near bile ducts upon damage, coinciding with robust activation of Wnt signalling. As shown by mouse lineage tracing using a new Lgr5-IRES-creERT2 knock-in allele, damage-induced Lgr5(+) cells generate hepatocytes and bile ducts in vivo. Single Lgr5(+) cells from damaged mouse liver can be clonally expanded as organoids in Rspo1-based culture medium over several months. Such clonal organoids can be induced to differentiate in vitro and to generate functional hepatocytes upon transplantation into Fah(-/-) mice. These findings indicate that previous observations concerning Lgr5(+) stem cells in actively self-renewing tissues can also be extended to damage-induced stem cells in a tissue with a low rate of spontaneous proliferation.

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