Background and aims: PTK6 is an intracellular src-related tyrosine kinase that regulates differentiation in the intestine, where knockout animals have increased proliferative activity and growth characteristics. To explore the phenotype further we attempted to establish epithelial cell lines from the intestinal mucosa.
Method: We mated Ptk6 null mice with a tsSV40 large T transgenic mouse (Immortomouse) to obtain null mice carrying the SV40 gene. Intestinal tissues from these mice were cultured.
Results: We established a Ptk6 null epithelial cell line from the colonic mucosa. Consistent with a role of Ptk6 in cell differentiation, these cells have the characteristics of a stable progenitor cell. In monolayer culture, the cells form domes in the monolayer when confluent. When cultured on Transwell filters, the cells polarize and form an electrically resistant barrier. Formation of tight junctions was confirmed by demonstrating expression of ZO1 and occludin at the apical junctions, whereas E-cadherin localized to the basolateral membrane. When cultured in collagen gel, the Ptk6 null cells form complex organoids, some of which resemble cups of cells. These organoids contain cells with differentiated phenotypes. Using immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy we have been able to identify villin-positive (absorptive cells) and a small percentage of mucin-containing cells (goblet cells) and chromogranin A-positive cells (endocrine cells).
Conclusion: This conditionally immortalized cell line represents an excellent cell culture model system for exploring the mechanisms of cell function and epithelial differentiation in the colonic mucosa.