• Differentiation;
  • macrophages;
  • monocytes;
  • PMA ;
  • THP-1


Macrophage function has many implications in a variety of diseases. Understanding their biology becomes imperative when trying to elucidate immune cell interactions with their environment, and in vitro cell lines allow researchers to manipulate these interactions. A common cell line used is THP-1, a promyeloid cell line suggestive to outside factors, and therefore sensitive to culture conditions. In this study, we describe how culture conditions can alter THP-1 morphology and in turn affect their response to differentiation stimuli.

Method of Study

THP-1 cells were cultured in two conditions and treated with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) or MCSF. CD14 surface expression was determined by flow cytometry and cytokine/chemokine production determined by multiplex analysis.


Culture conditions of THP-1 affect their response to PMA. Highly confluent THP-1 cells differentiate into a heterogeneous population responsive to PMA as seen by an increase in CD14 expression. However, these cells, cultured in low confluence, remain as a homogenous population and do not gain CD14. Additionally, there are major differences in the constitutive cytokine profile.


We demonstrate that the culture conditions of THP-1 cells can alter their response PMA. This suggests that culture techniques may account for the discrepancy in the literature of both basal THP-1 phenotype and their response to PMA.