Cell Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 557 Views Apr 5, 2024

Stem cell spheroids are rapidly becoming essential tools for a diverse array of applications ranging from tissue engineering to 3D cell models and fundamental biology. Given the increasing prominence of biotechnology, there is a pressing need to develop more accessible, efficient, and reproducible methods for producing these models. Various techniques such as hanging drop, rotating wall vessel, magnetic levitation, or microfluidics have been employed to generate spheroids. However, none of these methods facilitate the easy and efficient production of a large number of spheroids using a standard 6-well plate. Here, we present a novel method based on pellet culture (utilizing U-shaped microstructures) using a silicon mold produced through 3D printing, along with a detailed and illustrated manufacturing protocol. This technique enables the rapid production of reproducible and controlled spheroids (for 1 × 106 cells, spheroids = 130 ± 10 μm) from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hIPSCs) within a short time frame (24 h). Importantly, the method allows the production of large quantities (2 × 104 spheroids for 1 × 106 cells) in an accessible and cost-effective manner, thanks to the use of a reusable mold. The protocols outlined herein are easily implementable, and all the necessary files for the method replication are freely available.

Key features

• Provision of 3D mold files (STL) to produce silicone induction device of spheroids using 3D printing.

• Cost-effective, reusable, and autoclavable device capable of generating up to 1.2× 104 spheroids of tunable diameters in a 6-well plate.

• Spheroids induction with multiple hIPSC cell lines.

• Robust and reproducible production method suitable for routine laboratory use.

Graphical overview

Spheroid induction process following the pellet method on molded silicon discs

0 Q&A 697 Views Mar 5, 2024

Here, we describe immunofluorescent (IF) staining assay of 3D cell culture colonoids isolated from mice colon as described previously. Primary cultures developed from isolated colonic stem cells are called colonoids. Immunofluorescence can be used to analyze the distribution of proteins, glycans, and small molecules—both biological and non-biological ones. Four-day-old colonoid cell cultures grown on Lab-Tek 8-well plate are fixed by paraformaldehyde. Fixed colonoids are then subjected to antigen retrieval and blocking followed by incubation with primary antibody. A corresponding secondary antibody tagged with desired fluorescence is used to visualize primary antibody–marked protein. Counter staining to stain actin filaments and nucleus to assess cell structure and DNA in nucleus is performed by choosing the other two contrasting fluorescences. IF staining of colonoids can be utilized to visualize molecular markers of cell behavior. This technique can be used for translation research by isolating colonoids from colitis patients’ colons, monitoring the biomarkers, and customizing their treatments.

Key features

• Analysis of molecular markers of cell behavior.

Protocol to visualize proteins in 3D cell culture.

• This protocol requires colonoids isolated from mice colon grown on matrigel support.

• Protocol requires at least eight days to complete.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 1261 Views Feb 20, 2024

Signaling pathways are involved in key cellular functions from embryonic development to pathological conditions, with a pivotal role in tissue homeostasis and transformation. Although most signaling pathways have been intensively examined, most studies have been carried out in murine models or simple cell culture. We describe the dissection of the TGF-β signaling pathway in human tissue using CRISPR-Cas9 genetically engineered human keratinocytes (N/TERT-1) in a 3D organotypic skin model combined with quantitative proteomics and phosphoproteomics mass spectrometry. The use of human 3D organotypic cultures and genetic engineering combined with quantitative proteomics and phosphoproteomics is a powerful tool providing insight into signaling pathways in a human setting. The methods are applicable to other gene targets and 3D cell and tissue models.

Key features

• 3D organotypic models with genetically engineered human cells.

• In-depth quantitative proteomics and phosphoproteomics in 2D cell culture.

• Careful handling of cell cultures is critical for the successful formation of theorganotypic cultures.

• For complete details on the use of this protocol, please refer to Ye et al. 2022.

0 Q&A 371 Views Dec 5, 2023

The hypothalamus is an evolutionarily ancient part of the vertebrate ventral forebrain that integrates the dialogue between environment, peripheral body, and brain to centrally govern an array of physiologies and behaviours. Characterizing the mechanisms that control hypothalamic development illuminates both hypothalamic organization and function. Critical to the ability to unravel such mechanisms is the skill to isolate hypothalamic tissue, enabling both its acute analysis and its analysis after explant and culture. Tissue explants, in which cells develop in a manner analogous to their in vivo counterparts, are a highly effective tool to investigate the extrinsic signals and tissue-intrinsic self-organising features that drive hypothalamic development. The hypothalamus, however, is induced and patterned at neural tube stages of development, when the tissue is difficult to isolate, and its resident cells complex to define. No single molecular marker distinguishes early hypothalamic progenitor subsets from other cell types in the neural tube, and so their accurate dissection requires the simultaneous analysis of multiple proteins or mRNAs, techniques that were previously limited by antibody availability or were arduous to perform. Here, we overcome these challenges. We describe methodologies to precisely isolate early hypothalamic tissue from the embryonic chick at three distinct patterning stages and to culture hypothalamic explants in three-dimensional gels. We then describe optimised protocols for the analysis of embryos, isolated embryonic tissue, or cultured hypothalamic explants by multiplex hybridisation chain reaction. These methods can be applied to other vertebrates, including mouse, and to other tissue types.

Key features

• Detailed protocols for enzymatic isolation of embryonic chick hypothalamus at three patterning stages; methods can be extended to other vertebrates and tissues.

• Brief methodologies for three-dimensional culture of hypothalamic tissue explants.

• Optimised protocols for multiplex hybridisation chain reaction for analysis of embryos, isolated embryonic tissues, or explants.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 959 Views Oct 20, 2023

During the onset of autoimmune diabetes, nerve–immune cell interactions seem to play an important role; however, there are currently no models to follow and interfere with these interactions over time in vivo or in vitro. Two-dimensional in vitro models provide insufficient information and microfluidics or organs on a chip are usually challenging to work with. We present here what we believe to be the first simple model that provides the opportunity to co-culture pancreatic islets with sympathetic nerves and immune cells. This model is based on our stamping device that can be 3D printed (STL file provided). Due to the imprint in the agarose gel, sympathetic neurons, pancreatic islets, and macrophages can be seeded in specific locations at a level that allows for confocal live-cell imaging. In this protocol, we provide the instructions to construct and perform live cell imaging experiments in our co-culture model, including: 1) design for the stamping device to make the imprint in the gel, 2) isolation of sympathetic neurons, pancreatic islets, and macrophages, 3) co-culture conditions, 4) how this can be used for live cell imaging, and 5) possibilities for wider use of the model. In summary, we developed an easy-to-use co-culture model that allows manipulation and imaging of interactions between sympathetic nerves, pancreatic islets, and macrophages. This new co-culture model is useful to study nerve– immune cell– islet interactions and will help to identify the functional relevance of neuro-immune interactions in the pancreas.

Key features

• A novel device that allows for 3D co-culture of sympathetic neurons, pancreatic islets, and immune cells

• The device allows the capture of live interactions between mouse sympatheticneurons, pancreatic islets, and immune cells in a controlled environment after six days of co-culturing.

• This protocol uses cultured sympathetic neurons isolated from the superior cervical ganglia using a previously established method (Jackson and Tourtellotte, 2014) in a 3D co-culture.

• This method requires 3D printing of our own designed gel-stamping device (STL print file provided on SciLifeLab FigShare DOI: 10.17044/scilifelab.24073062).

Graphical overview

Graphical overview of co-culture model. 1) Print the stamp with a 3D printer. 2) Isolate neurons, islets, and macrophages. 3) Use the stamp to make the imprint in the agarose gel. 4) Seed the macrophages and islets in the agarose gel on their seeding points. 5) Place the coverslip with neurons on top. 6) Incubate the culture for six days. 7) Image the co-culture. Images adapted from BioRender.

0 Q&A 695 Views Sep 5, 2023

Tissue culture plastic has been used for routine cell culture and in vitro experiments for over 50 years. However, cells are mechanically responsive and behave differently on hard surfaces than they do on softer substrates. Polyacrylamide gels have become a popular hydrogel of choice for controlling surface stiffness and ligand density for cell adhesion. Many synthesis methods use coverslips and small gel surface areas for cell culture, which are amenable to microscopy-based experiments. However, none of the currently published methods can be scaled up to increase the surface area to accommodate conditioned media production, high volume analyte collection, or cell line expansion. To overcome this size limitation, we developed a protocol for synthesizing polyacrylamide in glass dishes using commercially available materials. This enables routine cell culture on soft surfaces and facilitates experiments that require large amounts of analyte, especially studies involving extracellular vesicles and secreted factors.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 2469 Views Apr 20, 2022

Three-dimensional culture of human normal colorectal epithelium and cancer tissue as organoids and tumoroids has transformed the study of diseases of the large intestine. A widely used strategy for generating patient-derived colorectal organoids and tumoroids involves embedding cells in domes of extracellular matrix (ECM). Despite its success, dome culture is not ideal for scalable expansion, experimentation, and high-throughput screening applications. Our group has developed a protocol for growing patient-derived colorectal organoids and tumoroids in low-viscosity matrix (LVM) suspension culture. Instead of embedding colonic crypts or tumor fragments in solid ECM, these are grown suspended in medium containing only a low percentage of ECM. Compared with dome cultures, LVM suspension culture reduces the labor and cost of establishing and passaging organoids and tumoroids, enables rapid expansion, and is readily adaptable for high-throughput screening.

Graphical abstract:

Generation of organoids and tumoroids from human large intestine using LVM suspension culture (Created with BioRender.com).

0 Q&A 2036 Views Apr 20, 2022

The absence of long term, primary untransformed in vitro models that support hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and replication have hampered HBV pre-clinical research, which was reflected in the absence of a curative therapy until recently. One of the limitations for in vitro HBV research has been the absence of high titer and pure recombinant HBV stocks, which, as we describe here, can be generated using simple, and reproducible protocols. In addition to infection of more conventional in vitro and in vivo liver model systems, recombinant high titer purified HBV stocks can also be used to efficiently infect differentiated human liver organoids, whose generation, maintenance, and infection is discussed in detail in a companion organoid protocol. Here, we also describe the protocols for the detection of specific viral read-outs, including HBV DNA in the supernatant of the cultures, covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) from intracellular DNA preparations, and HBV viral proteins and viral RNA, which can be detected within the cells, demonstrating the presence of a complete viral replication cycle in infected liver organoids. Although an evolving platform, the human liver organoid model system presents great potential as an exciting new tool to study HBV infection and progression to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in primary cells, when combined with the use of high-titer and pure recombinant HBV stock for infection.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 1754 Views Mar 20, 2022

The ubiquitous and cancer-associated Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with nearly all cases of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). Nasopharyngeal tissue is comprised of both pseudostratified and stratified epithelium, which are modeled in three-dimensional (3-D) cell culture. The cellular origin of EBV-associated NPC is as yet unknown, but both latent and lytic infections are likely important for preneoplastic mechanisms and replenishing the compartmentalized viral reservoir. Conventional 2-D cultures of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells (as primary cells or immortalized cell lines) are difficult to infect with EBV and cannot mimic the tissue-specific biology of the airway epithelium, which can only be captured in 3-D models. We have shown that EBV can infect the pseudostratified epithelium in air-liquid interface (ALI) culture using primary conditionally reprogrammed cells (CRCs) derived from the nasopharynx. In this protocol, we provide a step-by-step guide for the (i) conditional reprogramming of primary nasopharyngeal cells, (ii) differentiation of CRCs into pseudostratified epithelium in ALI culture (known as pseudo-ALI), and (iii) EBV infection of pseudo-ALI cultures. Additionally, we show that nasopharyngeal CRCs can be grown as organotypic rafts and subjected to EBV infection. These nasopharyngeal-derived 3-D cell cultures can be used to study EBV latent and lytic infection in relation to cell type and donor variation, by immunostaining and single-cell RNA-sequencing methods (Ziegler et al., 2021). These methods are useful for studies of EBV molecular pathogenesis, and can overcome many of the limitations associated with conventional 2-D cell cultures.

Graphic abstract:

Workflow of nasopharyngeal-derived conditionally reprogrammed cells grown into pseudostratified-ALI and organotypic rafts in 3-D cell culture. Created with Biorender.com.

0 Q&A 2581 Views Mar 20, 2022

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection represents a major public health problem infecting approximately 400 million people worldwide. Despite the availability of a preventive vaccine and anti-viral therapies, chronic HBV infection remains a major health issue because it increases the risk of developing liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The lack of a relevant in vitro model for the study of the molecular mechanisms that drive HBV replication and latency, as well as HBV-related carcinogenesis, has been one of the major obstacles to the development of curative strategies. Here, we propose the use of human liver organoids as a platform for modeling HBV infection and related tumorigenesis. Human liver organoids can be seeded from both healthy and cirrhotic liver biopsies. They can be expanded in vitro when culturing in a medium containing a specific set of growth factors. When the culture medium is changed into a new medium containing growth factors that promote differentiation, organoids differentiate into functional hepatocytes, which makes them susceptible to infection with recombinant HBV. The novel in vitro primary model system described in this protocol can be utilized as a platform to study HBV pathogenesis and drug screening. Organoids generated from cirrhotic liver biopsies can be a potential tool for personalized medicine, and for modeling HCC and other liver diseases.

Graphic abstract:

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