In Vitro

, Volume 15, Issue 12, pp 941–948 | Cite as

Requirements for maintaining the embryonic state of avian tendon cells in culture

  • Richard I. Schwarz
  • Deborah A. Farson
  • Mina J. Bissell


Primary avian tendon cells (PAT) maintain their embryonic state when cultured in medium F-12 with very low serum (0.2%) and ascorbate (50 μg per ml); that is, they retain the potential for devoting 20–30% of their total protein synthesis to collagen. However, if the cells are left at a confluent cell density or are derived from confluent cultures, this potential is irreversibly decreased. This effect, along with poor medium formulations, probably accounts for the “dedifferentiation” process that occurs when fibroblasts are cultured. In contrast, PAT cells kept at subconfluent cell densities retain the ability to synthesize high levels of collagen. The one limitation in obtaining long-term cultures of high collagen-producing tendon cells in the inability of serum at low concentrations to remain a potent mitogen after a few subcultures.

The quantitative loss of function has long been considered to be a cell culture artifact; however, we propose that this drop in collagen synthesis is a reflection of the developmental programing of these cells. In separate series of experiments using organ cultures, we show that tendon tissue from the embryo makes over 30% collagen, whereas, “young” tendons make 18% and “older” tendons from the adult make less than 1%. Therefore, a quantitative drop in collagen synthesis would be expected if normal development were to occur in culture. Our data are consistent with the idea that cultures of embryonic tendon cells are triggered to mature by a mechanism that correlates with high cell density.

Key words

collagen ascorbic acid differentiation development aging 


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Copyright information

© Tissue Culture Association 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard I. Schwarz
    • 1
  • Deborah A. Farson
    • 1
  • Mina J. Bissell
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Chemical Biodynamics, Lawrence Berkeley LaboratoryUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley

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