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J Endocrinol. 2000 Feb;164(2):119-28.

Ceiling culture of mature human adipocytes: use in studies of adipocyte functions.

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Department of Medicine, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TH, UK.


Adipocytes contain large lipid droplets in their cytoplasm. When cultured, they float on top of the medium, clump together, and do not gain equal and sufficient access to the medium. Morphological changes cannot be observed and the majority of adipocytes undergo cell lysis within 72 h of isolation. We have used a ceiling culture method for human mature adipocytes which uses their buoyant property to allow them to adhere to a floating glass surface, where they remain viable for several weeks. Using confocal immunofluorescence microscopy we showed the cellular expression and subcellular localization of leptin in ceiling-cultured adipocytes. The secretion of leptin was increased from ceiling cultures following tumour necrosis factor-alpha treatment. Proliferation of mature human adipocytes in serum-containing medium was demonstrated by incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine, 2% of adipocytes showing positive incorporation after 4 h labelling. Proliferation was also evident from the budding of daughter cells. Apoptosis in the ceiling cultures was increased by 48 h serum deprivation (30-35 vs 10-15% in the control) and was assayed by propidium iodide staining and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-fluorescein nick-end labelling. Lipolysis, analysed by liquid scintillation counting, was increased by forskolin (10 microM for 90 min) and lipogenesis, shown by autoradiography, was stimulated by insulin (10 and 100 nM for 4 h). These findings indicate that ceiling-cultured adipocytes maintain adipocyte-specific functions and that ceiling culture, which overcomes the shortcomings of adipocyte suspension culture, can be used to study adipocyte cell biology.

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