Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC) is a malignant epithelial neoplasm composed of cells resembling cholangiocytes that line the intrahepatic bile ducts in portal areas of the hepatic lobule. Although ICC has been defined as a tumor arising from cholangiocyte transformation, recent evidence from genetic lineage-tracing experiments has indicated that hepatocytes can be a cellular origin of ICC by directly changing their fate to that of biliary lineage cells. Notch signaling has been identified as an essential factor for hepatocyte conversion into biliary lineage cells at the onset of ICC. However, the mechanisms underlying Notch signal activation in hepatocytes remain unclear. Here, using a mouse model of ICC, we found that hepatic macrophages called Kupffer cells transiently congregate around the central veins in the liver and express the Notch ligand Jagged-1 coincident with Notch activation in pericentral hepatocytes. Depletion of Kupffer cells prevents the Notch-mediated cell-fate conversion of hepatocytes to biliary lineage cells, inducing hepatocyte apoptosis and increasing mortality in mice. These findings will be useful for uncovering the pathogenic mechanism of ICC and developing prevenient and therapeutic strategies for this refractory disease.
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