Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Vol.525, No.1, 238-243, 2020
EpCAM inhibits differentiation of human liver progenitor cells into hepatocytes in vitro by activating Notch1 signaling
In both normal turnover of the hepatic tissue and acute hepatic injury, the liver predominantly activates terminally differentiated hepatocytes to proliferate and repair. However, in chronic and severe chronic injury, this capacity fails, and liver progenitor cells (LPCs) can give rise to hepatocytes to restore both hepatic architecture and liver metabolic function. Although the promotion of LPC-to-hepatocyte differentiation to acquire a considerable number of functional hepatocytes could serve as a potentially new therapeutic option for patients with end-stage liver disease, its development first requires the identification of the molecular mechanisms driving this process. Here, we found that the epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM), a progenitor cell marker, regulates the differentiation of LPCs into hepatocytes through Notch1 signaling pathway. Western blotting (WB) revealed a consistent expression pattern of EpCAM and Notch1 during LPC-to-hepatocyte differentiation in vitro. Additionally, overexpression of EpCAM blocked LPC-to-hepatocyte differentiation, which was in consistent with the repressive role of Notch signaling during hepatic differentiation. WB and immunofluorescence data also showed that the upregulation of EpCAM expression increased the generation of Notch intracellular domain (N1ICD), indicating the promotion of Notch1 activity. Our results established the EpCAM-Notch1 signaling axis as an inhibitory mechanism preventing LPC-to-hepatocyte differentiation in vitro. (c) 2020 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.