Scientific reports

Efficient functional cyst formation of biliary epithelial cells using microwells for potential bile duct organisation in vitro.

PMID 30038407


Establishing a bile duct in vitro is valuable to obtain relevant hepatic tissue culture systems for cell-based assays in chemical and drug metabolism analyses. The cyst constitutes the initial morphogenesis for bile duct formation from biliary epithelial cells (BECs) and serves the main building block of bile duct network morphogenesis from the ductal plate during embryogenesis in rodents. Cysts have been commonly cultured via Matrigel-embedded culture, which does not allow structural organisation and restricts the productivity and homogeneity of cysts. In this study, we propose a new method utilising oxygen permeable honeycomb microwells for efficient cyst establishment. Primary mouse BECs were seeded on four sizes of honeycomb microwell (46, 76, 126, and 326 µm-size in diameter). Matrigel in various concentrations was added to assist in cyst formation. The dimension accommodated by microwells was shown to play an important role in effective cyst formation. Cytological morphology, bile acid transportation, and gene expression of the cysts confirmed the favourable basic bile duct function compared to that obtained using Matrigel-embedded culture. Our method is expected to contribute to engineered in vitro liver tissue formation for cell-based assays.