Genetic Modification and Recombination of Salivary Gland Organ Cultures

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Branching morphogenesis occurs during the development of many organs, and the embryonic mouse submandibular gland (SMG) is a classical model for the study of branching morphogenesis. In the developing SMG, this process involves iterative steps of epithelial bud and duct formation, to ultimately give rise to a complex branched network of acini and ducts, which serve to produce and modify/transport the saliva, respectively, into the oral cavity1-3. The epithelial-associated basement membrane and aspects of the mesenchymal compartment, including the mesenchyme cells, growth factors and the extracellular matrix, produced by these cells, are critical to the branching mechanism, although how the cellular and molecular events are coordinated remains poorly understood 4. The study of the molecular mechanisms driving epithelial morphogenesis advances our understanding of developmental mechanisms and provides insight into possible regenerative medicine approaches. Such studies have been hampered due to the lack of effective methods for genetic manipulation of the salivary epithelium. Currently, adenoviral transduction represents the most effective method for targeting epithelial cells in adult glands in vivo5. However, in embryonic explants, dense mesenchyme and the basement membrane surrounding the epithelial cells impedes viral access to the epithelial cells. If the mesenchyme is removed, the epithelium can be transfected using adenoviruses, and epithelial rudiments can resume branching morphogenesis in the presence of Matrigel or laminin-1116,7. Mesenchyme-free epithelial rudiment growth also requires additional supplementation with soluble growth factors and does not fully recapitulate branching morphogenesis as it occurs in intact glands8. Here we describe a technique which facilitates adenoviral transduction of epithelial cells and culture of the transfected epithelium with associated mesenchyme. Following microdissection of the embryonic SMGs, removal of the mesenchyme, and viral infection of the epithelium with a GFP-containing adenovirus, we show that the epithelium spontaneously recombines with uninfected mesenchyme, recapitulating intact SMG glandular structure and branching morphogenesis. The genetically modified epithelial cell population can be easily monitored using standard fluorescence microscopy methods, if fluorescently-tagged adenoviral constructs are used. The tissue recombination method described here is currently the most effective and accessible method for transfection of epithelial cells with a wild-type or mutant vector within a complex 3D tissue construct that does not require generation of transgenic animals.


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***±Sharon J. Sequeira, **±Elise M. Gervais, **Shayoni Ray, and Melinda Larsen. 2013. Genetic Modification and Recombination of Salivary Gland Organ Cultures. Journal of Visualized Experiments (71), e50060, doi:10.3791/50060 ±these authors contributed equally to the work PMID: 23407326 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23407326