Matrix metalloproteinases in early human liver development
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) regulate matrix deposition in tissues. Collagens I, III, and IV are involved in early human liver development. To establish whether MMPs specific for these collagens participate in early human liver development, we localized immunohistochemically MMP-1 and MMP-13 (for collagens I and III) and MMP-2 and MMP-7 (for collagen IV) in the early human liver anlage [6th–10th gestational week (GW)]. MMP-1 was found from the 6th GW onward in hepatocytes and later also in outer limiting plate hepatocytes, early bile ducts, and periportal mesenchymal cells. In the 6th GW, MMP-2 was found only in microvascular endothelium. In the 7th GW, MMP-2 was also detected in hepatocytes. From the 9th GW onward, MMP-2 was detectable in all hepatocytes and erythropoietic, endothelial, and periportal mesenchymal cells. MMP-7 was present in the 6th GW in some hepatocytes and endothelial cells, but from the 7th GW onward, only in hematopoietic cells. MMP-13 was found exclusively in hematopoietic cells. This study has shown that production of MMP -1, MMP-2, MMP-7, and MMP-13 during human liver development already occurs from the 6th GW. At this time-point their substrates are only traces or are not yet present in the tissue. A possible role of MMPs in early liver development is discussed.