The PICM-19 pig liver stem cell line was cultured in space for nearly 16 d on the STS-126 mission to assess the effects of spaceflight on the liver's parenchymal cells-PICM-19 cells to differentiate into either monolayers of fetal hepatocytes or 3-dimensional bile ductules (cholangiocytes). Semi-quantitative data included light microscopic assessments of final cell density, cell morphology, and response to glucagon stimulation and electron microscopic assessment of the cells' ultrastructural features and cell-to-cell connections and physical relationships. Quantitative assessments included assays of hepatocyte detoxification functions, i.e., inducible P450 activities and urea production and quantitation of the mRNA levels of several liver-related genes. Three post-passage age groups were included: 4-d-, 10-d-, and 14-d-old cultures. In comparing flight vs. ground-control cultures 17 h after the space shuttle's return to earth, no differences were found between the cultures with the exception being that some genes were differentially expressed. By light microscopy both young and older cultures, flight and ground, had grown and differentiated normally in the Opticell culture vessels. The PICM-19 cells had grown to approximately 75% confluency, had few signs of apoptosis or necrosis, and had either differentiated into monolayer patches of hepatocytes with biliary canaliculi visible between the cells or into 3-dimensional bile ductules with well-defined lumens. Ultrastructural features between flight and ground were similar with the PICM-19 cells displaying numerous mitochondria, Golgi apparatus, smooth and rough endoplasmic reticulum, vesicular bodies, and occasional lipid vacuoles. Cell-to-cell arrangements were typical in both flight and ground-control samples; biliary canaliculi were well-formed between the PICM-19 cells, and the cells were sandwiched between the STO feeder cells. PICM-19 cells displayed inducible P450 activities. They produced urea in a glutamine-free medium and produced more urea in response to ammonia. The experiment's aim to gather preliminary data on the PICM-19 cell line's suitability as an in vitro model for assessments of liver function in microgravity was demonstrated, and differences between flight and ground-control cultures were minor.