Engineered primary hepatocytes, including co-cultured hepatocyte sheets, are an attractive to basic scientific and clinical researchers because they maintain liver-specific functions, have reconstructed cell polarity, and have high transplantation efficiency. However, co-culture conditions regarding engineered primary hepatocytes were suboptimal in promoting these advantages. Here we report that the hepatocyte morphology and liver-specific function levels are controlled by the normal human diploid fibroblast (TIG-118 cell) layer cell density. Primary rat hepatocytes were plated onto TIG-118 cells, previously plated 3 days before at 1.04, 5.21, and 26.1 x 10(3) cells/cm(2). Hepatocytes plated onto lower TIG-118 cell densities expanded better during the early culture period. The hepatocytes gathered as colonies and only exhibited small adhesion areas because of the pushing force from proliferating TIG-118 cells. The smaller areas of each hepatocyte result in the development of bile canaliculi. The highest density of TIG-118 cells downregulated albumin synthesis activity of hepatocytes. The hepatocytes may have undergone apoptosis associated with high TGF-beta 1 concentration and necrosis due to a lack of oxygen. These occurrences were supported by apoptotic chromatin condensation and high expression of both proteins HIF-la and HIF-lb. Three types of engineered hepatocyte/fibroblast sheets comprising different TIG-118 cell densities were harvested after 4 days of hepatocyte culture and showed a complete cell sheet format without any holes. Hepatocyte morphology and liver-specific function levels are controlled by TIG-118 cell density, which helps to design better engineered hepatocytes for future applications such as in vitro cell-based assays and transplantable hepatocyte tissues. (C) 2018, The Society for Biotechnology, Japan. All rights reserved.