It has recently been reported that human adult β-cells proliferate during culture on an extracellular matrix prepared from rat 804G cells and in the presence of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) (6). The present study compares the mitogenic effect of this condition on human β-cells and on neighboring non-endocrine duct cells. Islet cell-enriched fractions were prepared from adult human organ donors and cultured in suspension or on 804G matrix, with or without HGF. The combination of 804G matrix and HGF increased the number of 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine-positive (BrdU+) cells within 48 h reaching a maximum after 4 days. In sections, virtually all BrdU+ cells were negative for insulin or glucagon and for preproinsulin mRNA but expressed the ductal cell markers cytokeratin 19 and 7, carbonic anhydrase-II, and carbohydrate antigen 19-9. After 4 days of culture, the cytokeratin 19+ ductal cells exhibited a BrdU-labeling index of 30% (P < 0.01 vs. 2% without HGF and matrix), whereas <0.1% of insulin-positive and <1% of glucagonpositive cells were labeled. Formation of bilayers with ductal cells covering the endocrine cells may cause erroneous interpretation on double positivity in unsectioned tissue. It is concluded that culture of human islet cell preparations with HGF and 804G matrix stimulates the proliferation of the duct cells but not of the underlying β-cells.

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