Adult liver has enormous regenerative capacity; it can regenerate after losing two-thirds of its mass while sustaining essential metabolic functions. How the liver balances dual demands for increased proliferative activity with maintenance of organ function is unknown but essential to prevent liver failure. Using partial hepatectomy (PHx) in mice to model liver regeneration, we integrated single-cell RNA- and ATAC-Seq to map state transitions in approximately 13,000 hepatocytes at single-cell resolution as livers regenerated, and validated key findings with IHC, to uncover how the organ regenerates hepatocytes while simultaneously fulfilling its vital tissue-specific functions. After PHx, hepatocytes rapidly and transiently diversified into multiple distinct populations with distinct functional bifurcation: some retained the chromatin landscapes and transcriptomes of hepatocytes in undamaged adult livers, whereas others transitioned to acquire chromatin landscapes and transcriptomes of fetal hepatocytes. Injury-related signaling pathways known to be critical for regeneration were activated in transitioning hepatocytes, and the most fetal-like hepatocytes exhibited chromatin landscapes that were enriched with transcription factors regulated by those pathways.
Tianyi Chen, Sehhoon Oh, Simon Gregory, Xiling Shen, Anna Mae Diehl
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