Complex cell signal transduction mechanisms regulate intestinal epithelial shape, polarity, motility, organelles, cell membrane components as well as physical and mechanical properties to influence alimentary digestion, absorption, secretion, detoxification and fluid balance. Interactions between the epithelial cells and adjacent mesenchyme are central to intestinal homeostasis although the key regulatory molecules of specific differentiation steps remain unclear. Isolation and primary culture of heterotypic murine intestinal cells provides a model system for elucidation of essential molecular cross-talk between epithelium and mesenchyme that may provide several biological and practical advantages over transformed cell lines. An in vitro primary culture system for neonatal rat or mouse intestinal cells has been established that forms monolayers, expresses intestine-specific epithelial features including intestinal brush borders and appropriate hydrolase enzymes. Our studies confirm the promise of this method which may advance our understanding of heterotypic cellular interactions implicated in intestinal function and may provide important insights into the pathobiology of disease.
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