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PLoS One. 2015 Mar 20;10(3):e0120097. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120097. eCollection 2015.

The effects of mycoplasma contamination upon the ability to form bioengineered 3D kidney cysts.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Departments of Pharmacology and of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, School of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.


Mycoplasma contamination of cell cultures is a pervasive, often undiagnosed and ignored problem in many laboratories that can result in reduced cell proliferation and changes in gene expression. Unless contamination is specifically suspected, it is often undetected in two dimensional (2D) cultures and the resulting effects of mycoplasma contamination are rarely appreciated and can lead to incorrect conclusions. Three dimensional (3D) tissue cultures are increasingly utilized to explore tissue development and phenotype. However, 3D cultures are more complex than 2D cell cultures and require a more controlled cellular environment in order to generate structures necessary to mimic in vivo responses and are often maintained for longer time periods. Changes to the microenvironment are assumed to have a more extreme effect upon the success of 3D tissue cultures than 2D cell cultures, but the effects of mycoplasma have not been studied. To test this hypothesis, we grew 2D cell cultures and 3D tissues from pig kidney epithelial cells (LLC-PK1) that were contaminated with mycoplasma and the same stock of cells after mycoplasma removal. We did not observe an effect of mycoplasma contamination on proliferation in 2D monolayer cell culture. However, cyst formation in 3D tissues was altered, with effects upon the number, size and structure of cysts formed. These data serve to reinforce the necessity of testing cell stocks for mycoplasma contamination.

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