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Keywords:

  • primary rat hepatocytes;
  • IDCCM;
  • microfluidic biochips;
  • flow rate effect;
  • density effect;
  • gene expressions

We investigated the behavior of primary rat hepatocytes in biochips using a microfluidic platform (the integrated dynamic cell culture microchip). We studied the effects of cell inoculation densities (0.2–0.5 × 106 cells/biochip) and perfusion flow rates (10, 25, and 40 µL/min) during 72 h of perfusion. No effects were observed on hepatocyte morphology, but the levels of mRNA and CYP1A2 activity were found to be dependent on the initial cell densities and flow rates. The dataset made it possible to extract a best estimated range of parameters in which the rat hepatocytes appeared the most functional in the biochips. Namely, at 0.25 × 106 inoculated cells cultivated at 25 µL/min for 72 h, we demonstrated better induction of the expression of all the genes analyzed in comparison with other cell densities and flow rates. More precisely, when primary rat hepatocytes were cultivated at these conditions, the time-lapse analysis demonstrated an over expression of CYP3A1, CYP2B1, ABCC1b and ABCC2 in the biochips when compared to the postextraction levels. Furthermore, the AHR, CYP1A2, GSTA2, SULT1A1, and UGT1A6 levels remained higher than 50% of the postextraction values whereas values of HNF4α, CEBP, and PXR remained higher than 20% during the duration of the culture process. Nevertheless, an important reduction in mRNA levels was found for the xenosensors CAR and FXR, and the related CYP (CYP2E1, CYP7A1, CYP3A2, and CYP2D2). CYP1A2 functionality was illustrated by 700 ± 100 pmol/h/106 cells resorufin production. This study highlighted the functionality in optimized conditions of primary rat hepatocytes in parallelized microfluidic cultures and their potential for drug screening applications. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 30:401–410, 2014