A comparison of whole genome gene expression profiles of HepaRG cells and HepG2 cells to primary human hepatocytes and human liver tissues

Steven Hart, Ye Li, Kaori Nakamoto, Eva Anne Subileau, David Steen, Xiao Bo Zhong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

135 Scopus citations


HepaRG cells, derived from a female hepatocarcinoma patient, are capable of differentiating into biliary epithelial cells and hepatocytes. More importantly, differentiated HepaRG cells are able to maintain activities of many xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes, and expression of the metabolizing enzyme genes can be induced by xenobiotics. The ability of these cells to express and induce xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes is in stark contrast to the frequently used HepG2 cells. The previous studies have mainly focused on a set of selected genes; therefore, it is of significant interest to know the extent of similarity of gene expression at whole genome levels in HepaRG cells and HepG2 cells compared with primary human hepatocytes and human liver tissues. To accomplish this objective, we used Affymetrix (Santa Clara, CA) U133 Plus 2.0 arrays to characterize the whole genome gene expression profiles in triplicate biological samples from HepG2 cells, HepaRG cells (undifferentiated and differentiated cells), freshly isolated primary human hepatocytes, and frozen liver tissues. After using similarity matrix, principal components, and hierarchical clustering methods, we found that HepaRG cells globally transcribe genes at levels more similar to human primary hepatocytes and human liver tissues than HepG2 cells. In particular, many genes encoding drug-processing proteins are transcribed at a more similar level in HepaRG cells than in HepG2 cells compared with primary human hepatocytes and liver samples. The transcriptomic similarity of HepaRG with primary human hepatocytes is encouraging for use of HepaRG cells in the study of xenobiotic metabolism, hepatotoxicology, and hepatocyte differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)988-994
Number of pages7
JournalDrug Metabolism and Disposition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science

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