Alternative functional in vitro models of human intestinal epithelia

Front Pharmacol. 2013 Jul 8:4:79. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2013.00079. eCollection 2013.


Physiologically relevant sources of absorptive intestinal epithelial cells are crucial for human drug transport studies. Human adenocarcinoma-derived intestinal cell lines, such as Caco-2, offer conveniences of easy culture maintenance and scalability, but do not fully recapitulate in vivo intestinal phenotypes. Additional sources of renewable physiologically relevant human intestinal cells would provide a much needed tool for drug discovery and intestinal physiology. We compared two alternative sources of human intestinal cells, commercially available primary human intestinal epithelial cells (hInEpCs) and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived intestinal cells to Caco-2, for use in in vitro transwell monolayer intestinal transport assays. To achieve this for iPSC-derived cells, intestinal organogenesis was adapted to transwell differentiation. Intestinal cells were assessed by marker expression through immunocytochemical and mRNA expression analyses, monolayer integrity through Transepithelial Electrical Resistance (TEER) measurements and molecule permeability, and functionality by taking advantage the well-characterized intestinal transport mechanisms. In most cases, marker expression for primary hInEpCs and iPSC-derived cells appeared to be as good as or better than Caco-2. Furthermore, transwell monolayers exhibited high TEER with low permeability. Primary hInEpCs showed molecule efflux indicative of P-glycoprotein (Pgp) transport. Primary hInEpCs and iPSC-derived cells also showed neonatal Fc receptor-dependent binding of immunoglobulin G variants. Primary hInEpCs and iPSC-derived intestinal cells exhibit expected marker expression and demonstrate basic functional monolayer formation, similar to or better than Caco-2. These cells could offer an alternative source of human intestinal cells for understanding normal intestinal epithelial physiology and drug transport.

Keywords: Transepithelial Electrical Resistance (TEER); human intestinal epithelial cell (hInEpC); induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC); neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn); permeability.