Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Cell culture


Mammalian cell lines are characterized by a complex and flexible metabolism. A single model that could describe the variations in metabolic behavior triggered by variations in the culture conditions would be a precious tool in bioprocess development. In this paper, we introduce an approach to generate a poly-pathway model and use it to simulate diverse metabolic states triggered in response to removal, reduction or doubling of amino acids in the culture medium of an antibody-producing CHO cell line. Macro-reactions were obtained from a metabolic network via elementary flux mode enumeration and the fluxes were modeled by kinetic equations with saturation and inhibition effects from external medium components. Importantly, one set of kinetic parameters was estimated using experimental data of the multiple metabolic states. A good fit between the model and the data was obtained for the majority of the metabolites and the experimentally observed flux variations. We find that the poly-pathway modeling approach is promising for the simulation of multiple metabolic states.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Acid, Ammonia, Metabolism, Cell culture, Chinese hamster ovary cell, Cell lines


While problems with cell line misidentification have been known for decades, an unknown number of published papers remains in circulation reporting on the wrong cells without warning or correction. Here we attempt to make a conservative estimate of this ‘contaminated’ literature. We found 32,755 articles reporting on research with misidentified cells, in turn cited by an estimated half a million other papers. The contamination of the literature is not decreasing over time and is anything but restricted to countries in the periphery of global science. The decades-old and often contentious attempts to stop misidentification of cell lines have proven to be insufficient. The contamination of the literature calls for a fair and reasonable notification system, warning users and readers to interpret these papers with appropriate care.

Concepts: Cell, Mathematics, Cell biology, Epistemology, Cell culture, Science, Cell lines, HeLa


Exposure to thirdhand smoke (THS) is a newly described health risk. Evidence supports its widespread presence in indoor environments. However, its genotoxic potential, a critical aspect in risk assessment, is virtually untested. An important characteristic of THS is its ability to undergo chemical transformations during aging periods, as demonstrated in a recent study showing that sorbed nicotine reacts with the indoor pollutant nitrous acid (HONO) to form tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) such as 4-(methylnitrosamino)-4-(3-pyridyl)butanal (NNA) and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK). The goal of this study was to assess the genotoxicity of THS in human cell lines using two in vitro assays. THS was generated in laboratory systems that simulated short (acute)- and long (chronic)-term exposures. Analysis by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry quantified TSNAs and common tobacco alkaloids in extracts of THS that had sorbed onto cellulose substrates. Exposure of human HepG2 cells to either acute or chronic THS for 24h resulted in significant increases in DNA strand breaks in the alkaline Comet assay. Cell cultures exposed to NNA alone showed significantly higher levels of DNA damage in the same assay. NNA is absent in freshly emitted secondhand smoke, but it is the main TSNA formed in THS when nicotine reacts with HONO long after smoking takes place. The long amplicon-quantitative PCR assay quantified significantly higher levels of oxidative DNA damage in hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase 1 (HPRT) and polymerase β (POLB) genes of cultured human cells exposed to chronic THS for 24h compared with untreated cells, suggesting that THS exposure is related to increased oxidative stress and could be an important contributing factor in THS-mediated toxicity. The findings of this study demonstrate for the first time that exposure to THS is genotoxic in human cell lines.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell, Chromosome, Smoking, Tobacco, Cell culture, Mutagen


MicroRNAs (miRs) play a vital role in governing cell function, with their levels tightly controlled at transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. Different sets of RNA-binding proteins (RNA-BPs) interact with primary (pri-) miRs and precursor (pre-) miR transcripts, controlling their biogenesis post-transcriptionally. The Hu antigen R (HuR)-mediated binding of Musashi homolog2 (MSI2) to the Conserved Terminal Loop (CTL) of pri-miR-7 regulates the levels of brain-enriched miR-7 formation in a tissue specific manner. Here we show that Oleic Acid (OA) inhibits binding of proteins containing RNA recognition motifs (RRM) to the CTL of pri-miR-7. Using EMSA assays in HeLa cell extracts we show that OA treatment disrupts pre-miR/protein complexes. Furthermore, Oleic Acid rescues in vitro processing of pri-miR-7, which is otherwise blocked by HuR and MSI2 proteins. On the contrary, pri-miR-16 shows reduced processing in the presence of OA. This indicates that OA may inhibit binding of other RRM-containing protein/s necessary for miR-16 processing. Finally, we demonstrate that OA induces mature miR-7 production in HeLa cells. Together our results demonstrate that OA can regulate the processing of pri-miRs by remodelling their protein complexes. This provides a new tool to study RNA processing as well as a potential lead for small molecules that target the miR-7 biogenesis pathway.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Cell nucleus, Enzyme, RNA, Cell culture, Post-transcriptional modification


In this study, we have generated and characterized Electronic Cigarette (EC) aerosols using a combination of advanced technologies. In the gas phase, the particle number concentration (PNC) of EC aerosols was found to be positively correlated with puff duration whereas the PNC and size distribution may vary with different flavors and nicotine strength. In the liquid phase (water or cell culture media), the size of EC nanoparticles appeared to be significantly larger than those in the gas phase, which might be due to aggregation of nanoparticles in the liquid phase. By using in vitro high-throughput cytotoxicity assays, we have demonstrated that EC aerosols significantly decrease intracellular levels of glutathione in NHOKs in a dose-dependent fashion resulting in cytotoxicity. These findings suggest that EC aerosols cause cytotoxicity to oral epithelial cells in vitro, and the underlying molecular mechanisms may be or at least partially due to oxidative stress induced by toxic substances (e.g., nanoparticles and chemicals) present in EC aerosols.

Concepts: Cell biology, Water, Oxidative stress, Cell culture, Cytotoxicity, Emulsion, Supercooling, Phases of matter


Bioprinting is an emerging technique for the fabrication of living tissues that allows cells to be arranged in predetermined three-dimensional (3D) architectures. However, to date, there are limited examples of bioprinted constructs containing multiple cell types patterned at high-resolution. Here we present a low-cost process that employs 3D printing of aqueous droplets containing mammalian cells to produce robust, patterned constructs in oil, which were reproducibly transferred to culture medium. Human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells and ovine mesenchymal stem cells (oMSCs) were printed at tissue-relevant densities (10(7) cells mL(-1)) and a high droplet resolution of 1 nL. High-resolution 3D geometries were printed with features of ≤200 μm; these included an arborised cell junction, a diagonal-plane junction and an osteochondral interface. The printed cells showed high viability (90% on average) and HEK cells within the printed structures were shown to proliferate under culture conditions. Significantly, a five-week tissue engineering study demonstrated that printed oMSCs could be differentiated down the chondrogenic lineage to generate cartilage-like structures containing type II collagen.

Concepts: Cell, Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Cell culture, Liquid


Common recommendations for cell line authentication, annotation and quality control fall short addressing genetic heterogeneity. Within the Human Toxome Project, we demonstrate that there can be marked cellular and phenotypic heterogeneity in a single batch of the human breast adenocarcinoma cell line MCF-7 obtained directly from a cell bank that are invisible with the usual cell authentication by short tandem repeat (STR) markers. STR profiling just fulfills the purpose of authentication testing, which is to detect significant cross-contamination and cell line misidentification. Heterogeneity needs to be examined using additional methods. This heterogeneity can have serious consequences for reproducibility of experiments as shown by morphology, estrogenic growth dose-response, whole genome gene expression and untargeted mass-spectroscopy metabolomics for MCF-7 cells. Using Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH), differences were traced back to genetic heterogeneity already in the cells from the original frozen vials from the same ATCC lot, however, STR markers did not differ from ATCC reference for any sample. These findings underscore the need for additional quality assurance in Good Cell Culture Practice and cell characterization, especially using other methods such as CGH to reveal possible genomic heterogeneity and genetic drifts within cell lines.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Cell, Organism, Cell biology, Cell culture


Retinal ganglion cell (RGC) injury and cell death from glaucoma and other forms of optic nerve disease is a major cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness. Human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived RGCs could provide a source of cells for the development of novel therapeutic molecules as well as for potential cell-based therapies. In addition, such cells could provide insights into human RGC development, gene regulation, and neuronal biology. Here, we report a simple, adherent cell culture protocol for differentiation of hPSCs to RGCs using a CRISPR-engineered RGC fluorescent reporter stem cell line. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting of the differentiated cultures yields a highly purified population of cells that express a range of RGC-enriched markers and exhibit morphological and physiological properties typical of RGCs. Additionally, we demonstrate that aligned nanofiber matrices can be used to guide the axonal outgrowth of hPSC-derived RGCs for in vitro optic nerve-like modeling. Lastly, using this protocol we identified forskolin as a potent promoter of RGC differentiation.

Concepts: Nervous system, DNA, Stem cell, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Cell culture, Retina, Retinal ganglion cell


Time-lapse imaging is a powerful tool for studying cellular dynamics and cell behavior over long periods of time to acquire detailed functional information. However, commercially available time-lapse imaging systems are expensive and this has limited a broader implementation of this technique in low-resource environments. Further, the availability of time-lapse imaging systems often present workflow bottlenecks in well-funded institutions. To address these limitations we have designed a modular and affordable time-lapse imaging and incubation system (ATLIS). The ATLIS enables the transformation of simple inverted microscopes into live cell imaging systems using custom-designed 3D-printed parts, a smartphone, and off-the-shelf electronic components. We demonstrate that the ATLIS provides stable environmental conditions to support normal cell behavior during live imaging experiments in both traditional and evaporation-sensitive microfluidic cell culture systems. Thus, the system presented here has the potential to increase the accessibility of time-lapse microscopy of living cells for the wider research community.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Cell, Cell biology, Cytoplasm, Microscope, Cell culture, Design, Robert Hooke


The chemoprotective properties of sulforaphane (SF), derived from cruciferous vegetables, are widely acknowledged to arise from its potent induction of xenobiotic-metabolizing and antioxidant enzymes. However, much less is known about the impact of SF on the efficacy of cancer therapy through the modulation of drug-metabolizing enzymes. To identify proteins modulated by a low concentration of SF, we treated HT29 colon cancer cells with 2.5 μM SF. Protein abundance changes were detected by stable isotope labeling of amino acids in cell culture. Among 18 proteins found to be significantly up-regulated, aldo-keto reductase 1C3 (AKR1C3), bioactivating the DNA cross-linking prodrug PR-104A, was further characterized. Preconditioning HT29 cells with SF reduced the EC50 of PR-104A 3.6-fold. The increase in PR-104A cytotoxicity was linked to AKR1C3 abundance and activity, both induced by SF in a dose-dependent manner. This effect was reproducible in a second colon cancer cell line, SW620, but not in other colon cancer cell lines where AKR1C3 abundance and activity were absent or barely detectable and could not be induced by SF. Interestingly, SF had no significant influence on PR-104A cytotoxicity in non-cancerous, immortalized human colonic epithelial cell lines expressing either low or high levels of AKR1C3. In conclusion, the enhanced response of PR-104A after preconditioning with SF was apparent only in cancer cells provided that AKR1C3 is expressed, while its expression in non-cancerous cells did not elicit such a response. Therefore, a subset of cancers may be susceptible to combined food-derived component and prodrug treatments with no harm to normal tissues.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene expression, Cell, Cancer, Cell biology, Colorectal cancer, Cell culture