Embryonic mouse salivary glands, pancreata, and kidneys were isolated from embryos of appropriate gestational age by microdissection, and were cultured on Biopore membrane either non-coated or coated with type I collagen or Matrigel. As expected, use of Biopore membrane allowed high quality photomicroscopy of the living organs. In all organs extensive mesenchymal spreading was observed in the presence of type I collagen or Matrigel. However, differences were noted in the effects of extracellular matrix (ECM) coatings on epithelial growth and morphogenesis: salivary glands were minimally affected, pancreas morphogenesis was adversely affected, and kidney growth and branching apparently was enhanced. It is suggested that these differences in behaviour reflect differences in the strength of interactions between the mesenchymal cells and their surrounding endogenous matrix, compared to the exogenous ECM macromolecules. This method will be useful for culture of these and other embryonic organs. In particular, culture of kidney rudiments on ECM-coated Biopore offers a great improvement over previously used methods which do not allow morphogenesis to be followed in vitro.
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