Repository logo

Acquisition of epithelial plasticity in human chronic liver disease.

Accepted version



Change log


Gribben, Christopher 
Galanakis, Vasileios 
Calderwood, Alexander 
Williams, Eleanor C  ORCID logo
Chazarra-Gil, Ruben  ORCID logo


For many adult human organs, tissue regeneration during chronic disease remains a controversial subject. Regenerative processes are easily observed in animal models, and their underlying mechanisms are becoming well characterized1-4, but technical challenges and ethical aspects are limiting the validation of these results in humans. We decided to address this difficulty with respect to the liver. This organ displays the remarkable ability to regenerate after acute injury, although liver regeneration in the context of recurring injury remains to be fully demonstrated. Here we performed single-nucleus RNA sequencing (snRNA-seq) on 47 liver biopsies from patients with different stages of metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease to establish a cellular map of the liver during disease progression. We then combined these single-cell-level data with advanced 3D imaging to reveal profound changes in the liver architecture. Hepatocytes lose their zonation and considerable reorganization of the biliary tree takes place. More importantly, our study uncovers transdifferentiation events that occur between hepatocytes and cholangiocytes without the presence of adult stem cells or developmental progenitor activation. Detailed analyses and functional validations using cholangiocyte organoids confirm the importance of the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway in this process, thereby connecting this acquisition of plasticity to insulin signalling. Together, our data indicate that chronic injury creates an environment that induces cellular plasticity in human organs, and understanding the underlying mechanisms of this process could open new therapeutic avenues in the management of chronic diseases.



3206 Medical Biotechnology, 32 Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, Stem Cell Research, Regenerative Medicine, Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis, Stem Cell Research - Nonembryonic - Non-Human, Liver Disease, Digestive Diseases, 2 Aetiology, 2.1 Biological and endogenous factors, Generic health relevance, Oral and gastrointestinal

Journal Title


Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title


Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Wellcome Trust (203151/Z/16/Z)
Wellcome Trust (203151/A/16/Z)
European Research Council (741707)
Medical Research Council (MC_PC_17230)