, Volume 136, Issue 1, pp 103-115,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 17 Jun 2011

Air–liquid interface cultures enhance the oxygen supply and trigger the structural and functional differentiation of intestinal porcine epithelial cells (IPEC)


The specific function of the epithelium as critical barrier between the intestinal lumen and the organism’s internal microenvironment is reflected by permanent maintenance of intercellular junctions and cellular polarity. The intestinal epithelial cells are responsible for absorption of nutritional components, facing mechanical stress and a changing oxygen supplementation via blood stream. Oxygen itself can regulate the barrier and the absorptive function of the epithelium. Therefore, we compared the dish cell culture, the transwell-like membrane culture and the oxygen enriched air–liquid interface (ALI) culture. We demonstrated strong influence of the different culture conditions on morphology and function of intestinal porcine epithelial cell lines in vitro. ALI culture resulted in a significant increase in cell number, epithelial cell layer thickness and expression as well as apical localisation of the microvilli-associated protein villin. Remarkable similarities regarding the morphological parameters were observed between ALI cultures and intestinal epithelial cells in vivo. Furthermore, the functional analysis of protein uptake and degradation by the epithelial cells demonstrated the necessity of sufficient oxygen supply as achieved in ALI cultures. Our study is the first report providing marked evidence that optimised oxygen supply using ALI cultures directly affects the morphological differentiation and functional properties of intestinal epithelial cells in vitro.