Peribiliary Glands Are Key in Regeneration of the Human Biliary Epithelium After Severe Bile Duct Injury

Iris E.M. de Jong, Alix P.M. Matton, Jasper B. van Praagh, Wouter T. van Haaften, Janneke Wiersema-Buist, Louise A. van Wijk, Dorenda Oosterhuis, Raditya Iswandana, Su Suriguga, Diletta Overi, Ton Lisman, Guido Carpino, Annette S.H. Gouw, Peter Olinga, Eugenio Gaudio, Robert J. Porte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Peribiliary glands (PBG) are a source of stem/progenitor cells organized in a cellular network encircling large bile ducts. Severe cholangiopathy with loss of luminal biliary epithelium has been proposed to activate PBG, resulting in cell proliferation and differentiation to restore biliary epithelial integrity. However, formal evidence for this concept in human livers is lacking. We therefore developed an ex vivo model using precision-cut slices of extrahepatic human bile ducts obtained from discarded donor livers, providing an intact anatomical organization of cell structures, to study spatiotemporal differentiation and migration of PBG cells after severe biliary injury. Postischemic bile duct slices were incubated in oxygenated culture medium for up to a week. At baseline, severe tissue injury was evident with loss of luminal epithelial lining and mural stroma necrosis. In contrast, PBG remained relatively well preserved and different reactions of PBG were noted, including PBG dilatation, cell proliferation, and maturation. Proliferation of PBG cells increased after 24 hours of oxygenated incubation, reaching a peak after 72 hours. Proliferation of PBG cells was paralleled by a reduction in PBG apoptosis and differentiation from a primitive and pluripotent (homeobox protein Nanog+/ sex-determining region Y-box 9+) to a mature (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator+/secretin receptor+) and activated phenotype (increased expression of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha, glucose transporter 1, and vascular endothelial growth factor A). Migration of proliferating PBG cells in our ex vivo model was unorganized, but resulted in generation of epithelial monolayers at stromal surfaces. Conclusion: Human PBG contain biliary progenitor cells and are able to respond to bile duct epithelial loss with proliferation, differentiation, and maturation to restore epithelial integrity. The ex vivo spatiotemporal behavior of human PBG cells provides evidence for a pivotal role of PBG in biliary regeneration after severe injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1719-1734
Number of pages16
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


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