Generation of metabolically functioning hepatocytes from human pluripotent stem cells by FOXA2 and HNF1α transduction

Kazuo Takayama, Mitsuru Inamura, Kenji Kawabata, Michiko Sugawara, Kiyomi Kikuchi, Maiko Higuchi, Yasuhito Nagamoto, Hitoshi Watanabe, Katsuhisa Tashiro, Fuminori Sakurai, Takao Hayakawa, Miho Kusuda Furue, Hiroyuki Mizuguchi
Journal of Hepatology 2012, 57 (3): 628-36

BACKGROUND & AIMS: Hepatocyte-like cells differentiated from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) can be utilized as a tool for screening for hepatotoxicity in the early phase of pharmaceutical development. We have recently reported that hepatic differentiation is promoted by sequential transduction of SOX17, HEX, and HNF4α into hESC- or hiPSC-derived cells, but further maturation of hepatocyte-like cells is required for widespread use of drug screening.

METHODS: To screen for hepatic differentiation-promoting factors, we tested the seven candidate genes related to liver development.

RESULTS: The combination of two transcription factors, FOXA2 and HNF1α, promoted efficient hepatic differentiation from hESCs and hiPSCs. The expression profile of hepatocyte-related genes (such as genes encoding cytochrome P450 enzymes, conjugating enzymes, hepatic transporters, and hepatic nuclear receptors) achieved with FOXA2 and HNF1α transduction was comparable to that obtained in primary human hepatocytes. The hepatocyte-like cells generated by FOXA2 and HNF1α transduction exerted various hepatocyte functions including albumin and urea secretion, and the uptake of indocyanine green and low density lipoprotein. Moreover, these cells had the capacity to metabolize all nine tested drugs and were successfully employed to evaluate drug-induced cytotoxicity.

CONCLUSIONS: Our method employing the transduction of FOXA2 and HNF1α represents a useful tool for the efficient generation of metabolically functional hepatocytes from hESCs and hiPSCs, and the screening of drug-induced cytotoxicity.

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