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Gastroenterology Research and Practice
Volume 2016, Article ID 2313850, 9 pages
Research Article

Members of the Cyr61/CTGF/NOV Protein Family: Emerging Players in Hepatic Progenitor Cell Activation and Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma

1Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark, NJ 07103, USA
2Department of Pediatrics, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA

Received 21 July 2016; Revised 24 September 2016; Accepted 26 September 2016

Academic Editor: Andrea C. Gardini

Copyright © 2016 Qunfeng Wu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Hepatic stem/progenitor cells (HPC) reside quiescently in normal biliary trees and are activated in the form of ductular reactions during severe liver damage when the replicative ability of hepatocytes is inhibited. HPC niches are full of profibrotic stimuli favoring scarring and hepatocarcinogenesis. The Cyr61/CTGF/NOV (CCN) protein family consists of six members, CCN1/CYR61, CCN2/CTGF, CCN3/NOV, CCN4/WISP1, CCN5/WISP2, and CCN6/WISP3, which function as extracellular signaling modulators to mediate cell-matrix interaction during angiogenesis, wound healing, fibrosis, and tumorigenesis. This study investigated expression patterns of CCN proteins in HPC and cholangiocarcinoma (CCA). Mouse HPC were induced by the biliary toxin 3,5-diethoxycarbonyl-1,4-dihydrocollidine (DDC). Differential expression patterns of CCN proteins were found in HPC from DDC damaged mice and in human CCA tumors. In addition, we utilized reporter mice that carried Ccn2/Ctgf promoter driven GFP and detected strong Ccn2/Ctgf expression in epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM)+ HPC under normal conditions and in DDC-induced liver damage. Abundant CCN2/CTGF protein was also found in cytokeratin 19 (CK19)+ human HPC that were surrounded by α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA)+ myofibroblast cells in intrahepatic CCA tumors. These results suggest that CCN proteins, particularly CCN2/CTGF, function in HPC activation and CCA development.