Three-dimensional slice cultures from murine fetal gut for investigations of the enteric nervous system



Three-dimensional intestinal cultures offer new possibilities for the examination of growth potential, analysis of time specific gene expression, and spatial cellular arrangement of enteric nervous system in an organotypical environment. We present an easy to produce in vitro model of the enteric nervous system for analysis and manipulation of cellular differentiation processes. Slice cultures of murine fetal colon were cultured on membrane inserts for up to 2 weeks without loss of autonomous contractility. After slice preparation, cultured tissue reorganized within the first days in vitro. Afterward, the culture possessed more than 35 cell layers, including high prismatic epithelial cells, smooth muscle cells, glial cells, and neurons analyzed by immunohistochemistry. The contraction frequency of intestinal slice culture could be modulated by the neurotransmitter serotonin and the sodium channel blocker tetrodotoxin. Coculture experiments with cultured neurospheres isolated from enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) transgenic mice demonstrated that differentiating eGFP-positive neurons were integrated into the intestinal tissue culture. This slice culture model of enteric nervous system proved to be useful for studying cell–cell interactions, cellular signaling, and cell differentiation processes in a three-dimensional cell arrangement. Developmental Dynamics 236:128–133, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.