DNMT1/PKR double knockdowned HepG2 (HepG2-DP) cells have high hepatic function and differentiation ability

HepG2 cells are widely used as a human hepatocytes model, but their functions, including drug metabolism, are inferior to primary hepatocytes. We previously reported that the hepatic gene expressions in HepG2 cells were upregulated by treatment with zebularine, which is an inhibitor of DNA methylation, through the inhibition of both DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) and double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR). In this study, we established a new HepG2 cell subline, HepG2-DP cells, by stable double knockdown of DNMT1 and PKR and evaluated its function. Albumin production, expression of CYP1A2 genes, and accumulation of lipid droplets were increased in HepG2-DP cells compared with the original HepG2 cells. Comprehensive gene expression analysis of transcription factors revealed that the expression of important genes for hepatic function, such as HNF1β, HNF4α, ONECUT1, FOXA1, FOXA2, FOXA3, and various nuclear receptors, was upregulated in HepG2-DP cells. These results indicate that the newly established HepG2-DP cells are a highly functional hepatocyte cell line. In addition, we investigated whether HepG2-DP cells are able to mature by differentiation induction, since HepG2 cells are derived from hepatoblastoma. The gene expression of major CYPs and Phase II, III drug-metabolizing enzyme genes was significantly increased in HepG2-DP cells cultured in differentiation induction medium. These results suggest that HepG2-DP cells can be further matured by the induction of differentiation and could therefore be applied to studies of drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics.

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