Serial culturing of human bronchial epithelial cells derived from biopsies

  • Petra M. de Jong
  • Marianne A. J. A. van Sterkenburg
  • Johanna A. Kempenaar
  • Joop H. Dijkman
  • Maria Ponec
Cellular Models


In the present study we describe the establishment of serial cultures of human bronchial epithelial cells derived from biopsies obtained by fiberoptic bronchoscopy. The cell cultures were initiated from small amounts of material (2 mm forceps biopsies) using either explants or epithelial cell suspensions in combination with a feeder-layer technique. The rate of cell proliferation and the number of passages (up to 8 passages) achieved were similar, irrespective of whether the explants or dissociated cells were used. To modulate the extent of differentiation, the bronchial epithelial cells were cultured either under submerged, low calcium (0.06 mM) (proliferating), normal calcium (1.6 mM) (differentiation enhancing) conditions, or at the air-liquid interface. Characterization of the bronchial epithelial cell cultures was assessed on the basis of cell morphology, cytokeratin expression, and ciliary activity. The cells cultured under submerged conditions formed a multilayer consisting of maximally three layers of polygonal-shaped, small cuboidal cells, an appearance resembling the basal cells in vivo. In the air-exposed cultures, the formed multilayer consisted of three to six layers exhibiting squamous metaplasia. The cytokeratin profile in cultured bronchial epithelial cells was similar in submerged and air-exposed cultures and comparable with the profile found in vivo. In addition to cytokeratins, vimentin was co-expressed in a fraction of the subcultured cells. The ciliary activity was observed in primary culture, irrespective of whether the culture had been established from explants or from dissociated cells. This activity was lost upon subculturing and it was not regained by prolongation of the culture period. In contrast to submerged cultures and despite the squamous metaplasia appearance, the cells showed a reappearance of cilia when cultured at the air-liquid interface. Human bronchial epithelial cell cultures can be a representative model for controlling the mechanisms of regulation of bronchial epithelial cell function.

Key words

human bronchial epithelial cell culture cytokeratins ciliary activity 


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Copyright information

© Tissue Culture Association 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petra M. de Jong
    • 2
  • Marianne A. J. A. van Sterkenburg
    • 2
  • Johanna A. Kempenaar
    • 3
  • Joop H. Dijkman
    • 2
  • Maria Ponec
    • 3
  1. 1.Dept. of Pulmonology, C3PUniversity HospitalLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Respiratory DiseasesUniversity HospitalLeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.the Department of DermatologyUniversity HospitalLeidenThe Netherlands

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