Tracheal remodeling: comparison of different composite cultures consisting of human respiratory epithelial cells and human chondrocytes
We have developed a unique in vitro reconstitution system for tracheal epithelia of guinea pigs. In the system, a human amnion membrane was used as a basement membrane and the tracheal epithelial cells were cultured on the epithelial side of the membrane. Three weeks later, the tracheal fibroblasts were co-cultured on the serosal side of the amnion membrane and the culturing was continued for an additional 10 d. The morphology of the cultured epithelial cells consisted of a pseudostratified columnar ciliated epithelium from cuboidal ciliated epithelium during the last 10 d of the culture period. Epithelial cells included both goblet-like and basal cells. In addition, the frequency of each type of differentiated cells was almost identical to that of in vivo tracheas. Interestingly, the same results were obtained when the conditioned medium of the tracheal fibroblasts was used instead of the fibroblasts themselves. These results suggest that epithelial-mesenchymal interaction is likely involved in growth and differentiation of epithelial cells in vivo in a soluble factor(s)-mediated manner. As well as the epithelial cells, the fibroblasts also formed a multilayer during the last 10 d of co-culturing. This indicates that in vitro reconstitution of tracheal epithelia is achieved without addition of any exogenous growth or differentiation factors. The reconstitution system is shown to be useful for investigating the cellular and molecular interaction of epithelial and mesenchymal cells. Possible applications of the culture system and possible factors involved in growth and differentiation of epithelial cells are discussed.