Characterisation of morphological differences in well-differentiated nasal epithelial cell cultures from preterm and term infants at birth and one-year

Helen E. Groves, Hong Guo Parke, Lindsay Broadbent, Michael D. Shields, Ultan F. Power

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10 Citations (Scopus)
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Innate immune responses of airway epithelium are important defences against respiratory pathogens and allergens. Newborn infants are at greater risk of severe respiratory infections compared to older infants, while premature infants are at greater risk than full term infants. However, very little is known regarding human neonatal airway epithelium immune responses and whether age-related morphological and/or innate immune changes contribute to the development of airway disease.

We collected nasal epithelial cells from 41 newborn infants (23 term, 18 preterm) within 5 days of birth. Repeat sampling was achieved for 24 infants (13 term, 11 preterm) at a median age of 12.5 months. Morphologically- and physiologically-authentic well-differentiated primary paediatric nasal epithelial cell (WD-PNEC) cultures were generated and characterised using light microscopy and immunofluorescence.

WD-PNEC cultures were established for 15/23 (65%) term and 13/18 (72%) preterm samples at birth, and 9/13 (69%) term and 8/11 (73%) preterm samples at one-year. Newborn and infant WD-PNEC cultures demonstrated extensive cilia coverage, mucous production and tight junction integrity. Newborn WD-PNECs took significantly longer to reach full differentiation and were noted to have much greater proportions of goblet cells compared to one-year repeat WD-PNECs. No differences were evident in ciliated/goblet cell proportions between term- and preterm-derived WD-PNECs at birth or one-year old.

We describe the successful generation of newborn-derived WD-PNEC cultures and their revival from frozen. We also compared the characteristics of WD-PNECs derived from infants born at term with those born prematurely at birth and at one-year-old. The development of WD-PNEC cultures from newborn infants provides a powerful and exciting opportunity to study the development of airway epithelium morphology, physiology, and innate immune responses to environmental or infectious insults from birth.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0201328
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 05 Dec 2018


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