Three-dimensional co-culture of hepatocytes and stellate cells

Susan Fugett Abu-Absi, Linda K. Hansen, Wei Shou Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Hepatocytes self-assemble in culture to form compacted spherical aggregates, or spheroids, that mimic the structure of the liver by forming tight junctions and bile canalicular channels. Hepatocyte spheroids thus resemble the liver to a great extent. However, liver tissue contains other cell types and has bile ducts and sinusoids formed by endothelial cells. Reproducing 3-D co-culture in vitro could provide a means to develop a more complex tissue-like structure. Stellate cells participate in revascularization after liver injury by excreting between hepatocytes a laminin trail that endothelial cells follow to form sinusoids. In this study we investigated co-culture of rat hepatocytes and a rat hepatic stellate cell line, HSC-T6. HSC-T6, which does not grow in serum-free spheroid medium, was able to grow under co-culture conditions. Using a three-dimensional cell tracking technique, the interactions of HSC-T6 and hepatocyte spheroids were visualized. The two cell types formed heterospheroids in culture, and HSC-T6 cell invasion into hepatocyte spheroids and subsequent retraction was observed. RT-PCR revealed that albumin and cytochrome P450 2B1/2 expression were better maintained in co-culture conditions. These three-dimensional heterospheroids provide an attractive system for in vitro studies of hepatocyte-stellate cell interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-140
Number of pages16
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004


  • 3-dimentional culture
  • Co-culture
  • Hepatocytes
  • Stellate cell


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