In vitro expansion and genetic modification of gastrointestinal stem cells in spheroid culture

Nat Protoc. 2013 Dec;8(12):2471-82. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2013.153. Epub 2013 Nov 14.


It is useful to be able to grow enriched populations of stem cells in vitro. Growth of stem cells as tissue spheroids is a key methodology permitting sustainable culture of adult epithelial cells. Gastrointestinal stem cells can be propagated by using conditioned medium from a supportive cell line (L-WRN). This protocol describes how to prepare conditioned medium and how to culture stem cell-enriched epithelial spheroids from the mouse gastrointestine. These spheroids are also amenable to genetic modification with recombinant lentiviruses. This system enables many types of cell biological assays that have been performed with immortalized cell lines to be applied to spheroids. Isolation of epithelial cell units from mice takes up to 2 h, and stem cell-enriched gastrointestinal spheroids are obtained within 3 d. Genetically modified spheroids with lentiviruses can be obtained in 2 weeks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Cell Line
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / cytology*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Spheroids, Cellular*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*