The air-liquid interface and use of primary cell cultures are important to recapitulate the transcriptional profile of in vivo airway epithelia

Alejandro A. Pezzulo, Timothy D. Starner, Todd E. Scheetz, Geri L. Traver, Ann E. Tilley, Ben Gary Harvey, Ronald Crystal, Paul B. McCray, Joseph Zabner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

144 Citations (Scopus)


Organotypic cultures of primary human airway epithelial cells have been used to investigate the morphology, ion and fluid transport, innate immunity, transcytosis, infection, inflammation, signaling, cilia, and repair functions of this complex tissue. However, we do not know how closely these cultures resemble the airway surface epithelium in vivo. In this study, we examined the genome-wide expression profile of tracheal and bronchial human airway epithelia in vivo and compared it with the expression profile of primary cultures of human airway epithelia grown at the air-liquid interface. For comparison, we also investigated the expression profile of Calu-3 cells grown at the air-liquid interface and primary cultures of human airway epithelia submerged in nutrient media. We found that the transcriptional profile of differentiated primary cultures grown at the air-liquid interface most closely resembles that of in vivo airway epithelia, suggesting that the use of primary cultures and the presence of an air-liquid interface are important to recapitulate airway epithelia biology. We describe a high level of similarity between cells of tracheal and bronchial origin within and between different human donors, which suggests a very robust expression profile that is specific to airway cells.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes



  • Cell culture models
  • Tracheal and bronchial epithelia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology (medical)

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