Background The urokinase plasminogen activator receptor associated protein (uPARAP)/Endo180 is a novel endocytic receptor that mediates collagen uptake and is implicated to play a role in physiological and pathological tissue-remodelling processes by mediating intracellular collagen degradation. Result This study investigates the expression of uPARAP/Endo180 protein and messenger RNA in primary rat hepatic stellate cell (HSC) cultures. The results show that uPARAP/Endo180 protein is not expressed in freshly isolated HSCs or during the first few days of culture while the cells still display quiescent features. In contrast, uPARAP/Endo180 protein is expressed early during HSC activation when cells are transdifferentiated into myofibroblast-like cells. Very low levels of uPARAP/Endo180 mRNA are detectable during the first days of culture but uPARAP/Endo180 mRNA is strongly up-regulated with increasing time in culture. Moreover, endocytic uptake of denatured collagen increases as transdifferentiation proceeds over time and correlates with increased expression of uPARAP/Endo180. Finally, analysis of uPARAP/Endo180 expression in four hepatic stellate cell lines from three different species showed that all these cell lines express uPARAP/Endo180 and are able to take up denatured collagen efficiently. Conclusion These results demonstrate that uPARAP/Endo180 expression by rat HSCs is strongly up-regulated during culture activation and identify this receptor as a feature common to culture-activated HSCs.