• parathyroid;
  • parathyroid hormone;
  • calcium;
  • calcium-sensing receptor;
  • three-dimensional collagen


Primary cultures of bovine parathyroid cells rapidly lose calcium responsiveness. Here, we show that bovine parathyroid cells grown in collagen coalesce into an organoid (“pseudogland”) with stable calcium responsiveness. These findings also illustrate the importance of 3-D cellular architecture in parathyroid gland function.

Introduction: The ability of extracellular calcium to suppress parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion is quickly lost in primary monolayer cultures of bovine parathyroid cells. This has been attributed to a decrease in the expression of the cell surface calcium-sensing receptor (CaR), but other factors, including normal cell-to-cell interaction, may be critical. Here we describe a novel system for culturing bovine parathyroid cells that promotes re-formation of a three-dimensional (3-D) cellular architecture and re-establishment of calcium responsiveness.

Materials and Methods: Dispersed bovine parathyroid cells were cultured as monolayers or were mixed with type I collagen and placed in culture plates. CaR mRNA and the calcium regulation of PTH secretion were measured over a period of several weeks in parathyroid cells cultured both in collagen matrix and as monolayers. Calcium regulation of PTH mRNA was also investigated.

Results and Conclusions: Within 1–2 weeks in collagen culture, parathyroid cells coalesced into a small mass approximately 1–2 mm in size (referred to as a pseudogland). Suppression of PTH secretion by high calcium was blunted at 1 day in collagen, but returned within 1 week, and was retained through 3 weeks; the calcium set point (1.05 ± 0.04 mM) was similar to that reported for freshly dispersed cells. PTH mRNA was also suppressed by increasing extracellular calcium. CaR mRNA expression was decreased at 1 day in collagen and increased with time in culture, although never reaching the level found in dispersed cells. In bovine parathyroid cells cultured as monolayers, however, suppression of PTH by calcium was observed only at day 1 in culture. CaR mRNA content fell by 70% at day 1 but remained stable thereafter. Thus, a total loss of calcium responsiveness in monolayers was observed despite significant residual expression of CaR, suggesting that loss of the calcium response cannot be attributed solely to decreased CaR. In summary, the pseudogland model illustrates the importance of the 3-D cellular architecture in parathyroid gland function and provides a useful model in which to investigate calcium-mediated control of parathyroid gland functions, especially those requiring extended treatment.