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Growth and differentiation of primary and passaged equine bronchial epithelial cells under conventional and air-liquid-interface culture conditions

Getu Abraham1*, Claudia Zizzadoro1, Johannes Kacza2, Christin Ellenberger3, Vanessa Abs1, Jana Franke1, Heinz-Adolf Schoon3, Johannes Seeger2, Yohannes Tesfaigzi4 and Fritz R Ungemach1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Pharmacology, Pharmacy and Toxicology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Leipzig, An den Tierkliniken 15, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

2 Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Leipzig, An den Tierkliniken 43, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

3 Institute of Pathology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Leipzig, An den Tierkliniken 33, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

4 Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, 2425 Ridgecrest Dr., SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108, USA

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BMC Veterinary Research 2011, 7:26  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-7-26

Published: 7 June 2011



Horses develop recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) that resembles human bronchial asthma. Differentiated primary equine bronchial epithelial cells (EBEC) in culture that closely mimic the airway cells in vivo would be useful to investigate the contribution of bronchial epithelium in inflammation of airway diseases. However, because isolation and characterization of EBEC cultures has been limited, we modified and optimized techniques of generating and culturing EBECs from healthy horses to mimic in vivo conditions.


Large numbers of EBEC were obtained by trypsin digestion and successfully grown for up to 2 passages with or without serum. However, serum or ultroser G proved to be essential for EBEC differentiation on membrane inserts at ALI. A pseudo-stratified muco-ciliary epithelium with basal cells was observed at differentiation. Further, transepithelial resistance (TEER) was more consistent and higher in P1 cultures compared to P0 cultures while ciliation was delayed in P1 cultures.


This study provides an efficient method for obtaining a high-yield of EBECs and for generating highly differentiated cultures. These EBEC cultures can be used to study the formation of tight junction or to identify epithelial-derived inflammatory factors that contribute to lung diseases such as asthma.