Tumor-promoting cyanotoxin microcystin-LR does not induce procarcinogenic events in adult human liver stem cells

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Abstract

HL1-hT1 cell line represents adult human liver stem cells (LSCs) immortalized with human telomerase reverse transcriptase. In this study, HL1-hT1 cells were found to express mesenchymal markers (vimentin, CD73, CD90/THY-1 and CD105) and an early hepatic endoderm marker FOXA2, while not expressing hepatic progenitor (HNF4A, LGR5, α-fetoprotein) or differentiated hepatocyte markers (albumin, transthyretin, connexin 32). In response to microcystin-LR (MC-LR), a time- and concentration-dependent formation of MC-positive protein bands in HL1-hT1 cells was observed. Cellular accumulation of MC-LR occurred most likely via mechanisms independent on organic anion transporting polypeptides (OATPs) or multidrug resistance (MDR) proteins, as indicated (a) by a gene expression analysis of 11 human OATP genes and 4 major MDR genes (MDR1/P-glycoprotein, MRP1, MRP2 and BCRP); (b) by non-significant effects of OATP or MDR1 inhibitors on MC-LR uptake. Accumulation of MC-positive protein bands in HL1-hT1 cells was associated neither with alterations of cell viability and growth, dysregulations of ERK1/2 and p38 kinases, reactive oxygen species formation, induction of double-stranded DNA breaks nor modulations of stress-inducible genes (ATF3, HSP5). It suggests that LSCs might have a selective, MDR1-independent, survival advantage and higher tolerance towards MC-induced cytotoxic, genotoxic or cancer-related events than differentiated adult hepatocytes, fetal hepatocyte or malignant liver cell lines. HL1-hT1 cells provide a valuable in vitro tool for studying effects of toxicants and pharmaceuticals on LSCs, whose important role in the development of chronic toxicities and liver diseases is being increasingly recognized.

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