, Volume 22, Issue 12, pp 653-660

Expression patterns of mRNAs for α-fetoprotein and albumin in the developing rat: the ontogenesis of hepatocyte heterogeneity

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In developing and normal adult rat liver the expression patterns of the mRNAs for α-fetoprotein (AFP) and albumin (ALB) were analysed byin situ hybridization using specific35S-labelled complementary DNA probes. In the developing liver AFP and ALB mRNA are found from embryonic day (ED) 11 and 12, respectively, onward. At ED 20 the first signs of a zonal distribution of these mRNAs across the liver lobule can be observed, AFP mRNA concentration being higher in the pericentral area and ALB mRNA concentration higher in the periportal area. This distribution pattern of reciprocal, overlapping gradients of mRNA can be clearly recognized in the neonatal period. In the adult liver AFP mRNA can no longer be detected and similar to the neonatal situation, ALB mRNA is expressed across the entire porto-central distance decreasing in concentration going from the portal to the central area.

Transient extra-hepatic expression of AFP mRNA is found in the embryonic heart and in the epithelial lining of intestine and lung furthermore, AFP and ALB mRNA are found to be transiently expressed in the developing renal tubules. Similar expression patterns have been observed for other liver-characteristic mRNAs (Moormanet al., 1990), suggesting that common regulatory factors are operative during development.