Reconstruction of tubular structures in three-dimensional collagen gel culture using proximal tubular epithelial cells voided in human urine

In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Anim. Sep-Oct 2003;39(8-9):364-7. doi: 10.1290/1543-706X(2003)039<0364:ROTSIT>2.0.CO;2.


Human proximal tubular (PT) epithelial cells were isolated from urine and monoclonally cultured as monolayers for 1 wk, after which they were subcultured between two layers of collagen gel, designated a "collagen gel sandwich." Under these culture conditions, PT cells formed three-dimensional tubular structures exhibiting distinct polarized cell morphology. Scanning and transmission electron microscopic studies showed that they bore numerous microvilli at the apical surface and that they closely contacted the collagen gel at the basal surface. These studies indicate that PT cells exfoliated in urine still exhibit the potential to proliferate and form organized structures mimicking in vivo tubules. Because of the current lack of useful culture systems for human tubular epithelial cells originating from kidney tissue, we suggest that this unique culture system using voided PT cells in urine could open up new avenues to study not only the mechanisms of morphogenesis but also the physiology of human PT cells.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Freeze Fracturing
  • Gels*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / cytology*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Urine / cytology*
  • Urothelium / cytology*


  • Gels
  • Collagen