An in vitro model of murine middle ear epithelium

Dis Model Mech. 2016 Nov 1;9(11):1405-1417. doi: 10.1242/dmm.026658. Epub 2016 Sep 22.


Otitis media (OM), or middle ear inflammation, is the most common paediatric disease and leads to significant morbidity. Although understanding of underlying disease mechanisms is hampered by complex pathophysiology it is clear that epithelial abnormalities underpin the disease. There is currently a lack of a well-characterised in vitro model of the middle ear (ME) epithelium that replicates the complex cellular composition of the middle ear. Here, we report the development of a novel in vitro model of mouse middle ear epithelial cells (mMECs) at an air-liquid interface (ALI) that recapitulates the characteristics of the native murine ME epithelium. We demonstrate that mMECs undergo differentiation into the varied cell populations seen within the native middle ear. Proteomic analysis confirmed that the cultures secrete a multitude of innate defence proteins from their apical surface. We showed that the mMECs supported the growth of the otopathogen, nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi), suggesting that the model can be successfully utilised to study host-pathogen interactions in the middle ear. Overall, our mMEC culture system can help to better understand the cell biology of the middle ear and improve our understanding of the pathophysiology of OM. The model also has the potential to serve as a platform for validation of treatments designed to reverse aspects of epithelial remodelling that underpin OM development.

Keywords: Air–liquid interface; Bpifa1; Middle ear epithelium; NTHi; Otitis media.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Shape
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cilia / metabolism
  • Ear, Middle / anatomy & histology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Epithelium / anatomy & histology*
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Haemophilus Infections / microbiology
  • Haemophilus Infections / pathology
  • Haemophilus influenzae / physiology
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Animal
  • Proteome / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Proteome