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Methods Mol Biol. 2009;522:319-30. doi: 10.1007/978-1-59745-413-1_21.

ECM and FGF-dependent assay of embryonic SMG epithelial morphogenesis: investigating growth factor/matrix regulation of gene expression during submandibular gland development.

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NIDCR, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


Epithelial-mesenchymal interactions during organogenesis are regulated by dynamic and reciprocal interactions between growth factors and extracellular matrix (ECM) components. Mouse embryonic submandibular gland (SMG) epithelium, isolated from its endogenous mesenchyme, undergoes branching morphogenesis when cultured ex vivo in a basement membrane extract in serum-free medium with growth factor stimulation. The resulting three-dimensional epithelial morphogenesis in the defined culture system makes this a useful model to analyze cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions, growth factor-mediated signaling and gene expression, proliferation, apoptosis, migration, lumen formation, and epithelial morphogenesis in a primary organ culture system. SMG epithelial culture is robust, reproducible, uses small amounts of reagents, and changes in gene expression are measured by real-time PCR using a limited amount of embryonic tissue. In this chapter, we describe a detailed protocol for isolating primary embryonic SMG epithelium and setting up an ECM and growth factor-dependent, serum-free assay of epithelial morphogenesis, with subsequent analysis of gene expression by real-time PCR.

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