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J Vis Exp. 2012 Dec 26;(70). pii: 4322. doi: 10.3791/4322.

Flow cytometric isolation of primary murine type II alveolar epithelial cells for functional and molecular studies.

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1
Research Group Immune Regulation, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research.

Abstract

Throughout the last years, the contribution of alveolar type II epithelial cells (AECII) to various aspects of immune regulation in the lung has been increasingly recognized. AECII have been shown to participate in cytokine production in inflamed airways and to even act as antigen-presenting cells in both infection and T-cell mediated autoimmunity (1-8). Therefore, they are especially interesting also in clinical contexts such as airway hyper-reactivity to foreign and self-antigens as well as infections that directly or indirectly target AECII. However, our understanding of the detailed immunologic functions served by alveolar type II epithelial cells in the healthy lung as well as in inflammation remains fragmentary. Many studies regarding AECII function are performed using mouse or human alveolar epithelial cell lines (9-12). Working with cell lines certainly offers a range of benefits, such as the availability of large numbers of cells for extensive analyses. However, we believe the use of primary murine AECII allows a better understanding of the role of this cell type in complex processes like infection or autoimmune inflammation. Primary murine AECII can be isolated directly from animals suffering from such respiratory conditions, meaning they have been subject to all additional extrinsic factors playing a role in the analyzed setting. As an example, viable AECII can be isolated from mice intranasally infected with influenza A virus, which primarily targets these cells for replication (13). Importantly, through ex vivo infection of AECII isolated from healthy mice, studies of the cellular responses mounted upon infection can be further extended. Our protocol for the isolation of primary murine AECII is based on enzymatic digestion of the mouse lung followed by labeling of the resulting cell suspension with antibodies specific for CD11c, CD11b, F4/80, CD19, CD45 and CD16/CD32. Granular AECII are then identified as the unlabeled and sideward scatter high (SSC(high)) cell population and are separated by fluorescence activated cell sorting (3). In comparison to alternative methods of isolating primary epithelial cells from mouse lungs, our protocol for flow cytometric isolation of AECII by negative selection yields untouched, highly viable and pure AECII in relatively short time. Additionally, and in contrast to conventional methods of isolation by panning and depletion of lymphocytes via binding of antibody-coupled magnetic beads (14, 15), flow cytometric cell-sorting allows discrimination by means of cell size and granularity. Given that instrumentation for flow cytometric cell sorting is available, the described procedure can be applied at relatively low costs. Next to standard antibodies and enzymes for lung disintegration, no additional reagents such as magnetic beads are required. The isolated cells are suitable for a wide range of functional and molecular studies, which include in vitro culture and T-cell stimulation assays as well as transcriptome, proteome or secretome analyses (3, 4).

PMID:
23287741
PMCID:
PMC3576420
DOI:
10.3791/4322
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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