, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 219–231 | Cite as

Growth of cells in a new defined protein-free medium

  • Kjell Bertheussen
Original Research Papers


The development of a new stable synthetic serum replacement (SSR) is described, which allows the cultivation of mammalian cells in a defined, protein-free medium containing only dialyzable components. With a low concentration of insulin (RPMI-SR2 medium), growth rates of the transformed cell lines L929, HELA S3, and the hybridoma 1E6 were comparable to growth rates obtained with a serum-containing medium. The same medium also supported long-term cultivation of non-dividing mouse macrophages. The main principle of SSR is a metal ion buffer containing a balanced mixture of iron and trace metals. Stability against precipitation of important metals is achieved by the combined use of EDTA and citric acid as chelating agents. Efficient iron supply is mediated through the inclusion of the compound Aurintricarboxylic acid as a synthetic replacement for transferrin. SSR also contains a growth-promoting surfactant, Pluronic F68. Thus SSR provides a general foundation for growth and differentiation normally provided by serum.

Limitations of other serum-free medium designs are discussed here: 1) the inability of transferrin to chelate all metals in the medium; and 2) the use of inorganic iron salts or iron citrate as an iron supplement leads to rapid precipitation of iron hydroxide in the medium. Both these problems are solved in the design of SSR.

Key words

cell culture chelators metal ion buffer serum-free medium serum replacement (serum substitute) trace elements 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kjell Bertheussen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Medical BiologyUniversity of TromsøTromsøNorway
  2. 2.Institute of Clinical MedicineUniversity of TromsøTromsøNorway

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