The intestinal epithelium is a single layer of cells that plays a critical role in digestion, absorbs nutrients from food, and coordinates the delicate interplay between microbes in the gut lumen and the immune system. Epithelial homeostasis is crucial for maintaining health; disruption of homeostasis results in disorders including inflammatory bowel disease and cancer. The advent of 3D intestinal epithelial organoids has greatly advanced our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of epithelial homeostasis and disease. Recently, we developed an enteroid monolayer (2D) culture system that recapitulates important features of 3D organoids and the in vivo intestinal epithelium such as tissue renewal, representation of diverse epithelial cell types, self-organization, and apical-basolateral polarization. Enteroid monolayers are cultured in microtiter plates, enabling high-throughput experiments. Furthermore, their 2D nature makes it easier to distinguish individual cells by fluorescent microscopy, enabling quantitative analysis of single cell behaviors within the epithelial tissue.Here we describe experimental methods for generating enteroid monolayers and computational methods for analyzing immunofluorescence images of enteroid monolayers. We outline experimental methods for generating enteroid monolayers from freshly isolated intestinal crypts, frozen intestinal crypts, and 3D organoids. Fresh crypts are easily obtained from murine or human intestinal samples, and the ability to derive enteroid monolayers from both frozen crypts and 3D organoids enables genetic modification and/or biobanking of patient samples for future studies. We outline computational methods for identifying distinct epithelial cell types (goblet, stem, EdU+) in immunofluorescence images of enteroid monolayers and, importantly, individual nuclei, enabling truly single cell measurements of epithelial cell behaviors to be made. Taken together, these methods will enable detailed studies of epithelial homeostasis and intestinal disease.
Keywords: Confocal microscopy; Enteroid monolayer; Intestinal organoids; Intestinal stem cells; Quantitative image analysis.