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Cell Biol Toxicol. 2007 Jul;23(4):241-56. Epub 2006 Dec 12.

In vitro models of intestinal epithelial cell differentiation.

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Inserm U682, Strasbourg, France.


The intestinal epithelium is a particularly interesting tissue as (1) it is in a constant cell renewal from a stem cell pool located in the crypts which form, with the underlying fibroblasts, a stem cell niche and (2) the pluripotent stem cells give rise to four main cell types: enterocytes, mucus, endocrine, and Paneth cells. The mechanisms leading to the determination of phenotype commitment and cell-specific expressions are still poorly understood. Although transgenic mouse models are powerful tools for elucidating the molecular cascades implicated in these processes, cell culture approaches bring easy and elegant ways to study cellular behavior, cell interactions, and cell signaling pathways for example. In the present review, we will describe the major tissue culture technologies that allow differentiation of epithelial cells from undifferentiated embryonic or crypt cells. We will point to the necessity of the re-creation of a complex microenvironment that allows full differentiation process to occur. We will also summarize the characteristics and interesting properties of the cell lines established from human colorectal tumors.

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