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

Human fetal enterocytes in vitro: modulation of the phenotype by extracellular matrix.

The differentiation of small intestinal epithelial cells may require stimulation by microenvironmental factors in vivo. In this study, the effects of mesenchymal and luminal elements in nonmalignant epithelia] cells isolated from the human fetus were studied in vitro. Enterocytes from the human fetus were cultured and microenvironmental factors were added in stages, each stage more closely approximating the microenvironment in vivo. Four stages were examined: epithelial cells derived on plastic from intestinal culture and grown as a cell clone, the same cells grown on connective tissue support, primary epithelial explants grown on fibroblasts with a laminin base, and primary epithelial explants grown on fibroblasts and laminin with n-butyrate added to the incubation medium. The epithelial cell clone dedifferentiated when grown on plastic; however, the cells expressed cytokeratins and villin as evidence of their epithelial cell origin. Human connective tissue matrix from Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm sarcoma cells (Matrigel) modulated their phenotype: alkaline phosphatase activity increased, microvilli developed on their apical surface, and the profile of insulin-like growth factor binding proteins resembled that secreted by differentiated enterocytes. Epithelial cells taken directly from the human fetus as primary cultures and grown as explants on fibroblasts and laminin expressed greater specific enzyme activities in brush border membrane fractions than the cell clone. These activities were enhanced by the luminal molecule sodium butyrate. Thus the sequential addition of connective tissue and luminal molecules to nonmalignant epithelia] cells in vitro induces a spectrum of changes in the epithelial cell phenotype toward full differentiation.[1]


  1. Human fetal enterocytes in vitro: modulation of the phenotype by extracellular matrix. Sanderson, I.R., Ezzell, R.M., Kedinger, M., Erlanger, M., Xu, Z.X., Pringault, E., Leon-Robine, S., Louvard, D., Walker, W.A. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (1996) [Pubmed]
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