The etiology of biliary atresia (BA) remains unknown, but ductal-plate malformation and insufficient ductal-plate remodeling have been suggested to play important roles, so it is beneficial to examine the maturation and differentiation of bile ducts in BA. Different epithelial types are characterized by the expression of specific cytokeratin (CK) subtypes. CK can therefore serve as a 'lineage marker' of epithelial cells. CK subtypes have not been previously examined in BA. In this study, we examined the maturation of bile-duct cells in BA (n = 45) using immunohistochemistry of CK subtypes, with mouse monoclonal antibodies to CAM5.2, and CK subtypes 7, 8, 13, 14, 17, 19 and 20. We then compared these findings with pediatric non-BA (n = 11) and fetal (n = 21) liver. We semiquantitatively evaluated the findings using a H score method. In the fetal liver, immunoreactivity for CAM5.2, CK-7, CK-8 and CK-19 was detected in bile-duct cells, and CAM5.2 and CK-8 immunoreactivity was also detected in hepatocytes. The distribution of these CK subtypes was the same in fetal, pediatric non-BA and BA liver. However, CK-7 immunoreactivity was markedly weaker in bile ducts of fetal (H scores: ductal plate 0 ± 0; remodeling 9.5 ± 40.3; remodeled 37.3 ± 60.8) and BA (H score: 200.9 ± 55.3) liver compared to non-BA liver (H score: 251.1 ± 33.5). In addition, CK-20 was detected in the bile ducts of the fetal and BA liver, but not in non-BA liver. These findings suggest that the expression patterns of CK subtypes in bile-duct cells in BA are similar to that in developing bile-duct cells, which is indicative of bile-duct cell immaturity.
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