Isolation and characterization of human primary enterocytes from small intestine using a novel method

Scand J Gastroenterol. 2012 Nov;47(11):1334-43. doi: 10.3109/00365521.2012.708940. Epub 2012 Sep 4.


Cell culture studies of enterocytes are important in many fields. However, there are difficulties in obtaining cell lines from adult human intestine, such as microbial contamination of cultures from the tissue samples, short life span of enterocytes, overgrowth of mesenchymal cells, etc. Various model used to obtain adult intestinal cell lines are very complex requiring use of feeder layer or gel matrices. The aim of this study was to establish a novel method for the simple and reproducible isolation of human enterocytes. Enterocytes were isolated from SI samples (n = 5) obtained from cadaveric donors using a mechanical procedure, and separation with immunomagnetic beads coated with anti-EpCAM antibodies. Light and electron microscopy, flow cytometry and immunocytochemistry techniques were used to characterize the isolated cells. Immunohistochemical staining of normal SB biopsies confirmed that the cell cultures maintained an in vivo phenotype as reflected in cytokeratin expression CK18, CK20 and expression of intestine-specific markers such as sucrase isomaltase and maltase glucoamylase. Furthermore, the cells strongly expressed TLR-5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 and several molecules such as CD40, CD86, CD44, ICAM-1 and HLA-DR which are important in triggering cell-mediated immune responses. This novel technique provides a unique in vitro system to study the biology of enterocytes in normal conditions as well as to study inflammatory processes in various small bowel disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / immunology
  • Cell Separation / methods*
  • Enterocytes / cytology
  • Enterocytes / immunology*
  • Enterocytes / metabolism*
  • Enterocytes / ultrastructure
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule
  • Fenoterol
  • Flow Cytometry
  • HLA-DR Antigens / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intestine, Small / cytology*
  • Keratin-18 / metabolism
  • Keratin-20 / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Sucrase-Isomaltase Complex / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism
  • alpha-Glucosidases / metabolism


  • Antibodies
  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • EPCAM protein, human
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Keratin-18
  • Keratin-20
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Fenoterol
  • Sucrase-Isomaltase Complex
  • alpha-Glucosidases