Cholangiocytes are the target of a group of chronic liver diseases termed the “cholangiopathies,” in which cholangiocytes react to exogenous and endogenous insults, leading to disease initiation and progression. In primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), the focus of this review, the cholangiocyte response to genetic or environmental insults can lead to a heterogeneous response; that is, a subpopulation acquires a ductular reactive and proliferative phenotype, while another subpopulation undergoes senescence and growth arrest. Both ductular reactive cholangiocytes and senescent cholangiocytes can modify the periductal microenvironment through their ability to secrete various cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors, initiating and perpetuating inflammatory and profibrotic responses. This review discusses the similarities and differences, the interrelationships, and the potential pathogenic roles of these reactive proliferative and senescent cholangiocyte subpopulations in PSC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas