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Note: Research in this publication was not performed at Janelia.
Freshly isolated, depolarized rat hepatocytes can repolarize into bile canalicular networks when plated in collagen sandwich cultures. We studied the events underlying this repolarization process, focusing on how hepatocytes restore ATP synthesis and resupply biosynthetic precursors after the stress of being isolated from liver. We found that soon after being plated in collagen sandwich cultures, hepatocytes converted their mitochondria into highly fused networks. This occurred through a combination of upregulation of mitochondrial fusion proteins and downregulation of a mitochondrial fission protein. Mitochondria also became more active for oxidative phosphorylation, leading to overall increased ATP levels within cells. We further observed that autophagy was upregulated in the repolarizing hepatocytes. Boosted autophagy levels likely served to recycle cellular precursors, supplying building blocks for repolarization. Repolarizing hepatocytes also extensively degraded lipid droplets, whose fatty acids provide precursors for ?-oxidation to fuel oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria. Thus, through coordination of mitochondrial fusion, autophagy, and lipid droplet consumption, depolarized hepatocytes are able to boost ATP synthesis and biosynthetic precursors to efficiently repolarize in collagen sandwich cultures.