Organ size is maintained by the controlled proliferation of distinct cell populations. In the mouse liver, hepatocytes in the midlobular zone that are positive for cyclin D1 (CCND1) repopulate the parenchyma at a constant rate to preserve liver mass. Here, we investigated how hepatocyte proliferation is supported by hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), pericytes that are in close proximity to hepatocytes. We used T cells to ablate nearly all HSCs in the murine liver, enabling the unbiased characterization of HSC functions. In the normal liver, complete loss of HSCs persisted for up to 10 weeks and caused a gradual reduction in liver mass and in the number of CCND1+ hepatocytes. We identified neurotrophin-3 (Ntf-3) as an HSC-produced factor that induced the proliferation of midlobular hepatocytes through the activation of tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB). Treating HSC-depleted mice with Ntf-3 restored CCND1+ hepatocytes in the midlobular region and increased liver mass. These findings establish that HSCs form the mitogenic niche for midlobular hepatocytes and identify Ntf-3 as a hepatocyte growth factor.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereadf6696
JournalScience Signaling
Issue number787
StatePublished - 30 May 2023


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