Expression of Tight Junction Components in Hepatocyte-Like Cells Differentiated from Human Embryonic Stem Cells
The canals of Hering or biliary ductules have been described to connect the bile canaliculi with the interlobular bile ducts, and thus forming the distal part of the biliary tree. Studies in the last two decades suggested that the cells constructing these ductules could behave as hepatic progenitor cells. The canals of Hering are confined to the periportal space in the rat, while they have been reported to spread beyond the limiting plate in human liver. The distribution of the distal biliary ductules in normal human hepatic tissue has been investigated in our recent experiments. We could demonstrate the presence of interlobular connective tissue septa in a rudimentary form in healthy livers. The canals of Hering run in these septa in line with the terminal branches of the portal vein and hepatic arteries. This arrangement develops in the postnatal period but regresses after early childhood. The canals of Hering can be identified by the unique epithelial membrane antigen (EMA)-/CD56+/CD133+ immunophenotype. The canals of Hering leave the periportal space and spread into the liver parenchyma along rudimentary interlobular septa outlining the hepatic lobules. Our observations refine the original architectural description of the intraparenchymal portion of the canals of Hering in the human liver. The distinct immunophenotype supports their unique biological function.