• GVHD targets organoid-forming bile duct stem cells via a TGF-β-dependent manner

  • TGF-β inhibitor protects organoid-forming bile duct stem cells against GVHD and mitigates biliary dysfunction

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a major life-threatening complication that occurs after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). While adult tissue stem cells have been identified as targets of GVHD in the skin and gut, their role in hepatic GVHD is yet to be clarified. In the current study, we explored the fate of bile duct stem cells (BDSCs), capable of generating liver organoids in vitro, during hepatic GVHD after allogeneic HCT. We observed a significant expansion of biliary epithelial cells (BECs) upon injury early after allogeneic HCT. Organoid-forming efficiency from the bile duct was also significantly increased early after allogeneic HCT. Subsequently, the organoid-forming efficiency from bile ducts was markedly decreased in association with the reduction of BECs and the elevation of plasma concentrations of bilirubin, suggesting that GVHD targets BDSCs and impairs the resilience of BECs. The growth of liver organoids in the presence of liver-infiltrating mononuclear cells from allogeneic recipients, but not from syngeneic recipients, significantly reduced in a TGF--dependent manner. Administration of SB-431542, an inhibitor of TGF-β signaling, from day 14 to day 28 protected organoid-forming BDSCs against GVHD and mitigated biliary dysfunction after allogeneic HCT, suggesting that BDSCs are a promising therapeutic target for hepatic GVHD.

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