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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Mesangial cell hillocks. Nodular foci of exaggerated growth of cells and matrix in prolonged culture.

To examine the capability of glomerular mesangial cells (MCs) to produce extracellular matrix, the authors studied MCs in culture by light and electron microscopy as well as immunocytochemistry. MCs were obtained from isolated rat glomeruli and maintained up to 12 weeks in medium containing 20% fetal calf serum. MC outgrowth of primary culture and of up to three subcultures showed characteristic organization consisting of bands of elongated or stellate intertwined cells. After confluency at 10-16 days, MCs continued to grow in irregular multilayers. MCs produced extracellular matrix material within 2-4 days after plating, and large amounts of matrix accumulated with time. By 2-3 weeks, foci of exaggerated MC proliferation, matrix secretion, and necrotic cell debris formed nodular protrusions, which gradually produced large hillocks. Immunocytochemical studies of MC outgrowths were performed on culture plates or on sectioned material with the use of specific rabbit polyclonal antibodies to isolated matrix proteins and FITC-conjugated, affinity-purified second antibodies. Within 3 days of culture, MCs elaborated fibronectin and collagen Types I, III, IV, and V. With time, strands of matrix, notably in the central mass of hillocks, stained extensively for these constituents. Staining for laminin was less pronounced. Smooth muscle cell myosin was regularly found on distinct intracellular fibrils and in the extracellular material of hillocks. Electron microscopy revealed the hillocks to be composed of elongated cells on the surface and stellate cells intermingled with matrix and necrotic cell debris in the core. The results show that proliferating MCs can be maintained in homogeneous culture for a prolonged time period. MCs produce large amounts of the extracellular matrix proteins (Type IV and V collagen, fibronectin, laminin), which are found in normal glomeruli. Cultured MCs also produce interstitial collagen Types I and III. MC hillocks show the nodular accumulation of matrix similar to that seen in the mesangium of diseased glomeruli. It is concluded that the in vitro model of prolonged MC outgrowth may facilitate the investigation of factors that govern mesangial matrix production. Such a model could be used in examining the response of the mesangium to defined inflammatory or metabolic stimuli.[1]


  1. Mesangial cell hillocks. Nodular foci of exaggerated growth of cells and matrix in prolonged culture. Sterzel, R.B., Lovett, D.H., Foellmer, H.G., Perfetto, M., Biemesderfer, D., Kashgarian, M. Am. J. Pathol. (1986) [Pubmed]
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