Ren, D., Daines, D.A.  Division of Basic Medical Sciences, Mercer University School of Medicine.

Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) are human-adapted Gram-negative bacteria that can cause recurrent and chronic infections of the respiratory mucosa 1; 2. To study the mechanisms by which these organisms survive on and inside respiratory tissues, a model in which successful long-term co-culture of bacteria and human cells can be performed is required. We use primary human respiratory epithelial tissues raised to the air-liquid interface, the EpiAirway model (MatTek, Ashland, MA). These are non-immortalized, well-differentiated, 3-dimensional tissues that contain tight junctions, ciliated and nonciliated cells, goblet cells that produce mucin, and retain the ability to produce cytokines in response to infection. This biologically relevant in vitro model of the human upper airway can be used in a number of ways; the overall goal of this method is to perform long-term co-culture of EpiAirways with NTHi and quantitate cell-associated and internalized bacteria over time. As well, mucin production and the cytokine profile of the infected co-cultures can be determined. This approach improves upon existing methods in that many current protocols use submerged monolayer or Transwell cultures of human cells, which are not capable of supporting bacterial infections over extended periods3. For example, if an organism can replicate in the overlying media, this can result in unacceptable levels of cytotoxicity and loss of host cells, arresting the experiment. The EpiAirway model allows characterization of long-term host-pathogen interactions. Further, since the source for the EpiAirway is normal human tracheo-bronchial cells rather than an immortalized line, each is an excellent representation of actual human upper respiratory tract tissue, both in structure and in function4. For this method, the EpiAirway tissues are weaned off of anti-microbial and anti-fungal compounds for 2 days prior to delivery, and all procedures are performed under antibiotic-free conditions. This necessitates special considerations, since both bacteria and primary human tissues are used in the same biosafety cabinet, and are co-cultured for extended periods.


Bacteria, Bacterial infections, Gram-negative bacteria, Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi), Host-pathogen interactions, Long-term co-culture

Materials Tested


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