Biotechnology Letters, Vol.40, No.5, 755-763, 2018
Hepatic esterase activity is increased in hepatocyte-like cells derived from human embryonic stem cells using a 3D culture system
The aim of the study is to generate a spherical three-dimensional (3D) aggregate of hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs) differentiated from human embryonic stem cells and to investigate the effect of the 3D environment on hepatic maturation and drug metabolism. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis indicated that gene expression of mature hepatocyte markers, drug-metabolizing enzymes, and hepatic transporters was significantly higher in HLCs cultured in the 3D system than in those cultured in a two-dimensional system (p < 0.001). Moreover, hepatocyte-specific functions, including albumin secretion and bile canaliculi formation, were increased in HLCs cultured in the 3D system. In particular, 3D spheroidal culture increased expression of CES1 and BCHE, which encode hepatic esterases (p < 0.001). The enhanced activities of these hepatic esterases were confirmed by the cholinesterase activity assay and the increased susceptibility of HLCs to oseltamivir, which is metabolized by CES1. 3D spheroidal culture enhances the maturation and drug metabolism of stem cell-derived HLCs, and this may help to optimize hepatic differentiation protocols for hepatotoxicity testing.