Continuous mucociliary transport by primary human airway epithelial cells in vitro

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2015 Jul 15;309(2):L99-108. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00024.2015. Epub 2015 May 15.


Mucociliary clearance (MCC) is an important innate defense mechanism that continuously removes inhaled pathogens and particulates from the airways. Normal MCC is essential for maintaining a healthy respiratory system, and impaired MCC is a feature of many airway diseases, including both genetic (cystic fibrosis, primary ciliary dyskinesia) and acquired (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchiectasis) disorders. Research into the fundamental processes controlling MCC, therefore, has direct clinical application, but has been limited in part due to the difficulty of studying this complex multicomponent system in vitro. In this study, we have characterized a novel method that allows human airway epithelial cells to differentiate into a mucociliary epithelium that transports mucus in a continuous circular track. The mucociliary transport device allows the measurement and manipulation of all features of mucociliary transport in a controlled in vitro system. In this initial study, the effect of ciliary beat frequency and mucus concentration on the speed of mucociliary transport was investigated.

Keywords: airway; cilia; human; mucociliary; mucus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cilia / physiology*
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Microscopy, Phase-Contrast
  • Mucociliary Clearance / physiology*
  • Mucus / metabolism*
  • Respiratory System / metabolism*