An ex vivo culture system to study thyroid development

J Vis Exp. 2014 Jun 6;(88):51641. doi: 10.3791/51641.

Abstract

The thyroid is a bilobated endocrine gland localized at the base of the neck, producing the thyroid hormones T3, T4, and calcitonin. T3 and T4 are produced by differentiated thyrocytes, organized in closed spheres called follicles, while calcitonin is synthesized by C-cells, interspersed in between the follicles and a dense network of blood capillaries. Although adult thyroid architecture and functions have been extensively described and studied, the formation of the "angio-follicular" units, the distribution of C-cells in the parenchyma and the paracrine communications between epithelial and endothelial cells is far from being understood. This method describes the sequential steps of mouse embryonic thyroid anlagen dissection and its culture on semiporous filters or on microscopy plastic slides. Within a period of four days, this culture system faithfully recapitulates in vivo thyroid development. Indeed, (i) bilobation of the organ occurs (for e12.5 explants), (ii) thyrocytes precursors organize into follicles and polarize, (iii) thyrocytes and C-cells differentiate, and (iv) endothelial cells present in the microdissected tissue proliferate, migrate into the thyroid lobes, and closely associate with the epithelial cells, as they do in vivo. Thyroid tissues can be obtained from wild type, knockout or fluorescent transgenic embryos. Moreover, explants culture can be manipulated by addition of inhibitors, blocking antibodies, growth factors, or even cells or conditioned medium. Ex vivo development can be analyzed in real-time, or at any time of the culture by immunostaining and RT-qPCR. In conclusion, thyroid explant culture combined with downstream whole-mount or on sections imaging and gene expression profiling provides a powerful system for manipulating and studying morphogenetic and differentiation events of thyroid organogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dissection
  • Embryo, Mammalian / surgery
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Pregnancy
  • Thyroid Gland / embryology*
  • Thyroid Gland / surgery
  • Tissue Culture Techniques / methods*