Differentiation of Human and Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells Along a Hepatocyte Lineage

Hitoshi Shirahashi, Jian Wu, Naoki Yamamoto, Andreea Catana, Henning Wege, Brook Wager, Kiwamu Okita, Mark A Zern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Embryonic stem (ES) cells may differentiate along a hepatocyte lineage; however, currently there are no reports of culture conditions yielding high levels of hepatocyte-specific gene expression in these cells. We investigated culture conditions for differentiating ES cells into hepatocyte-like cells in vitro. Various combinations of culture media, growth and differentiation factors, and substratum precoatings were evaluated, and it was determined that a combination of Iscove's modified Dulbecco's medium with 20% fetal bovine serum, human insulin, dexamethasone, and collagen type I precoating was optimal for directing mouse ES cells along a hepatocyte lineage. Treatment of mouse ES cell with the optimal condition led to prealbumin gene expression 20% as high, and albumin synthesis 7% as high, as in mouse liver. The optimal culture condition also induced albumin gene expression in differentiated human ES cells 1% as high as in normal human hepatocytes as shown by Western blot analysis, and cells were positive for human albumin by immunocytochemistry. In addition, our optimal condition led to high levels of albumin gene expression in primary mouse hepatocytes after 35 days of culture, levels 10-fold higher than with other hepatocyte differentiation media. In conclusion, our optimal condition directed both mouse and human ES cells along a hepatocyte lineage. This represents the initial step in establishing cell lines that can be employed in cell-based therapeutics in humans and for toxicology and pharmacology studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-211
Number of pages15
JournalCell Transplantation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004


  • Albumin
  • Dexamethasone
  • Embryonic stem cells
  • Hepatocyte
  • Insulin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Transplantation


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