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Laser Scanning Confocal Microscopy
Confocal Microscopy Image Gallery

Fluorescently Labeled Cells in Culture

The culture of whole tissues and isolated cells were first undertaken in the early 1900s as a technique for investigating the behavior of animal cells in an isolated and highly controlled environment. The term tissue culture arose because most of the early cells were derived from primary tissue explants, a technique that dominated the field for over 50 years. As established cell lines emerged, the application of well-defined normal and transformed cells in biomedical investigations has become an important staple in the development of cellular and molecular biology. This laser scanning confocal microscopy image gallery explores over 25 of the most common cell lines, labeled with a variety of fluorophores using both traditional staining methods as well as immunofluorescence techniques.

Bovine Pulmonary Artery Endothelial Cells (BPAE) - P. Del Vecchio established the BPAE cell line in the late 1970s from tissue excised from the main stem of a young cow’s pulmonary artery. The bovine cell line is frequently utilized in studies focusing on hypertension, coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, and similar conditions. BPAE cells exhibit typical endothelial morphology and are positive for angiotensin converting enzyme, a substance that normally narrows the blood vessels.

Cat Kidney Cortex Epithelial Cells (CRFK) - The CRFK feline kidney cell line was established by a team led by R. A. Crandell from the renal cortex of a 12-week-old female cat (Felis catus domesticus). The cells, which are often utilized in viral research and in the production of vaccines, exhibit typical epithelial morphology. Testing indicates that the CRFK line is free from the bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) virus that was found to have contaminated major stocks of a large number of permanent cell lines. CRFK cells are susceptible, however, to the BVD virus, as well as an array of other viruses.

Embryonic Albino Swiss Mouse Fibroblast Cells (3T3) - Established by George Todaro and Howard Green in 1962 from disaggregated Swiss mouse (Mus musculus) embryo tissue, the 3T3 cell line is a standard fibroblast cell line used in a wide spectrum of research and industrial biomedical applications. Variants of the initial cell line have been tested and found negative for ectromelia virus (mousepox), but most are susceptible to polyoma and simian virus 40 (SV40). In addition, 3T3 cells are negative for the viral enzyme reverse transcriptase, indicating the lack of integral retrovirus genomes.

Embryonic Rat Thoracic Aorta Medial Layer Myoblast Cells (A-10) - The clonal A-10 line was established form the thoracic aorta of a DB1X strain embryonic rat (Rattus norvegicus). The morphology of A-10 cells is similar to that of myoblasts, the precursors of muscle fibers. In culture, the cells grow adherently and generate spontaneous action potentials at the stationary phase of the growth cycle. An increase in activity of the enzymes myokinase and creatine phosphokinase in the cells has been documented.

Female Rat Kangaroo Kidney Epithelial Cells (PtK1) - The PtK1 cell line is thought to have been established earlier than any other permanent marsupial cell line. The line, which is particularly popular for use in chromosome studies, was developed in the early 1960s from the kidney tissue of an adult female rat kangaroo (Potorous tridactylis). PtK1 cells exhibit epithelial morphology and stain positive for the intermediate filament protein keratin. Testing indicates that the cells are resistant to infection with poliovirus 2, but are susceptible to vesicular stomatitis (Indiana strain).

Fox Lung Fibroblast Cells (FoLu) - The FoLu line of cells was established from the lung tissue of an adult female grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). The cells exhibit many of the typical characteristics associated with fibroblasts and are primarily used in virus studies. Many lung-derived cell lines similar to FoLu have also been utilized in studies focusing upon the short- and long-term effects of cigarette smoke, and this particular line is potentially useful for such research as well.

Horse Dermal Fibroblast Cells (NBL-6) - Initiated from the dermal tissue of a 4-year-old female horse (Equus caballus) of the quarterhorse strain, the NBL-6 cell line (also called the E. Derm line) has played an important role in equine viral arteritis (EVA) research. EVA is a contagious respiratory disease caused by a small, enveloped RNA virus. The fibroblast cell line is also commonly utilized to propagate viruses for equine vaccine production.

Human Bone Osteosarcoma Cells (U-2 OS) - J. Ponten and E. Saksela established the U-2 OS human cell line from a moderately differentiated sarcoma of the tibia. Males are more commonly afflicted with osteosarcoma than females, but the patient from whom the original cells were sampled was a fifteen-year-old girl. U-2 OS cells exhibit epithelial characteristics and are positive for both insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and insulin-like growth factor II (IGF II) receptors.

Human Brain Glioma Cells (U-118 MG) - From 1966 to 1969, multiple cell lines were established by J. Ponten and associates from human gliomas, including the U-118 MG line. The U-118 MG line, which has been found to be tumorigenic in nude mice inoculated subcutaneously, contains both glioblastoma and astrocytoma cells. In the mid-1980s, it was discovered that the U-118 MG cell line was contaminated with mycoplasmata, but stocks of the cells were subsequently treated with BM-cycline for six weeks in order to eliminate the problem.

Human Cervical Adenocarcinoma Cells (HeLa) - The HeLa cell line, which was initiated from a cervical adenocarcinoma, was the first successful immortal human cell line. Soon after the establishment of the epithelial line in the early 1950s, it was utilized in the development and testing of the polio vaccine. The proliferation of HeLa cells is remarkable, an entire generation of the cells being produced about once every day.

Human Embryonic Kidney Epithelial Cells (HEK 293) - Since the late 1970s, HEK cells have been commonly used in studies of adenoviruses, a collection of DNA-containing viruses that cause upper respiratory tract infections and pinkeye in humans. This application of the HEK line was made possible by the transformation of the cells with DNA from human adenovirus type 5 in 1977 by a group of scientists led by Frank Graham at McMaster University, which resulted in a new cell line, termed HEK 293.

Human Fetal Lung Fibroblast Cells (MRC-5) - MRC-5 cells are a line of human lung fibroblast cells established in the 1960s by J. P. Jacobs. Studies have demonstrated that the cells are susceptible to several different viruses, including vesicular stomatitis (Indiana strain), poliovirus 1, and herpes simplex. The MRC-5 line is frequently used in laboratories for many different applications, such as in vitro cytotoxicity testing, the development of vaccines, and as a transfection host for investigation of viruses and viral diseases.

Indian Muntjac Deer Skin Fibroblast Cells - A fibroblast cell line established from a skin biopsy of an adult male, the Indian Muntjac deer epidermis line is commonly used in laboratories around the world, especially for chromosome studies. The normal (non-transformed) Indian Muntjac cell line is susceptible to the herpes simplex virus, vaccinia virus, and vesicular stomatitis virus (Indiana strain).

Madin-Darby Ovine Kidney Epithelial Cells (MDOK) - The MDOK cell line was established by S. H. Madin and N. B. Darby, Jr. from normal male ovine kidney tissue. Testing has demonstrated that the cells are susceptible to sheep bluetongue virus, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, and the Indiana and New Jersey strains of vesicular stomatitis.

Male Rat Kangaroo Kidney Epithelial Cells (PtK2) - PtK2 cells are commonly utilized as a model of the mitotic process because the cells and the fourteen chromosomes they each contain are quite large compared to the chromosomes of humans and other animals. The line was established from renal tissue excised from a male Potorous tridactylus, popularly known as the rat kangaroo. PtK2 cells exhibit typical epithelial characteristics and stain positive for the keratin, an intermediate filament protein.

Mink Uterus Endometrium Epithelial Cells (GMMe) - The GMMe cell line was initiated via the stable transfection of tissue excised from the endometrial layer of an adult mink’s uterus. The plasmid vector utilized for the transfection encoded simian virus 40 (SV40) large tumor antigen (T antigen). The cells were then cotransfected with another plasmid vector containing the gene for neomycin resistance and selected in a medium containing the antibiotic G418.

Mongolian Gerbil Lung Fibroblast Cells (GeLu) - Lung tissue of a rodent native to parts of Africa and Asia, the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus), served as the source of the initial cells from which the GeLu fibroblast line was established. The tissue sample was excised from a 403-day-old female. The GeLu line demonstrates susceptibility to numerous viruses, including vesicular stomatitis (Indiana strain), Semliki forest, germiston, herpes simplex, and adenovirus 2.

Mouse Hemangioendothelioma Endothelial Cells (EOMA) - A hemangioendothelioma is any of a broad group of tumors that arise from the endothelium of a blood vessel. The epithelial EOMA cell line was initiated from mixed hemangioendothelioma tissue excised from an adult mouse (Mus musculus). EOMA cells express vascular addressin (an endothelial cell adhesion molecule) and surface receptors for acetylated low-density lipoprotein.

Normal African Green Monkey Kidney Epithelial Cells (Vero) - Y. Yasumura and Y. Kawakita at the Chiba University in Chiba, Japan established the Vero epithelial cell line in the early 1960s from the kidney tissue of an adult African green monkey. The cells are a standard cell line utilized in many laboratories, especially for vaccine production, transfections, and the detection of verotoxins. The Vero cell has been demonstrated to be resistant to a variety of viruses, including Apeu, Nepuyo, Caraparu, Stratford, Madrid, and Ossa viruses.

Normal African Green Monkey Kidney Fibroblast Cells (CV-1) - Investigators working with simian virus 40 (SV40) or in the field of AIDS research often utilize CV-1 cells, which were initially used in studies of the Rous sarcoma virus (RSV). A team led by F. C. Jensen established the CV-1 cell line in the early 1960s. The cells from which the line was initiated were sampled from the renal tissue of an African green monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops). CV-1 cells are popularly employed in transfection experiments and are known to be susceptible to a wide array of viruses.

Opossum Kidney Epithelial Cells (OK) - The OK cell line was derived from the kidney of an adult female North American opossum and was originally intended for use as a source of X chromosomes for studies of X inactivation. The line was soon discovered, however, to display many characteristics of kidney proximal tubular epithelial cells and has since been commonly utilized as a cell culture model for the cell type.

Owl Monkey Kidney Epithelial Cells (OMK) - The owl monkey (Aotus trivirgatus) is a nocturnal native of tropical South America that is known for its large, closely set eyes. The OMK epithelial cell line was established from kidney tissue excised from a member of the species. Studies indicate that OMK cells are susceptible to infection with several different non-human primate viruses, such as herpesvirus saimiri, herpesvirus ateles, and herpesvirus aotus. The line is commonly used to propagate these viruses for research purposes.

Rabbit Kidney Epithelial Cells (RK13) - The RK13 cell line is often employed in transfection experiments and to isolate viruses. The epithelial line was established from the renal tissue of a 5-week-old rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). RK13 cells are susceptible to infection with a wide variety of viruses, including herpes simplex, pseudorabies, vaccinia, rabbitpox, myxoma, simian adenoviruses, the B virus, and rubellavirus.

Raccoon Uterus Fibroblast Cells (Pl 1 UT) - Studies have shown that Pl 1 UT cells are susceptible to an array of viruses, including herpes simplex virus, reovirus 3, and vesicular stomatitis (Ogden strain). The line is, therefore, commonly utilized in the propagation of such viruses for research purposes and has been particularly useful in investigations of feline and canine viral diseases.

Rhesus Monkey Kidney Epithelial Cells (LLC-MK2) - LLC-MK2 is an epithelial line that was established in the 1950s from a pooled suspension prepared from renal tissue excised from six rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). LLC-MK2 cellular products include the protease plasminogen activator associated with the kidneys that normally instigates the process of fibrinolysis by converting plasminogen to plasmin. The LLC-MK2 line demonstrates susceptibility to polioviruses 1, 2, and 3 and tests negative for reverse transcriptase, indicating the lack of integral retrovirus genomes.

Swiss Mouse Embryo Moloney Murine Leukemia Virus Transfected Fibroblast Cells (CRE BAG 2) - CRE BAG 2 is a fibroblast cell line that was developed from the NIH 3T3 embryonic Swiss mouse cell line, which was transfected with Moloney murine leukemia virus-derived proviral genomes carrying complementary mutations in the gag-pol or env regions. The genomes were altered at the 3’ end of the provirus and contained a deletion of the psi sequence needed for the efficient encapsidation of retroviral genomes into virions.

Tahr Ovary Epithelial Cells (HJ1.Ov Line) - The Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), which is related to the wild goat, was the source for the HJ1.Ov cell line. Scientists at The Naval Bioscience Laboratory established the line from the ovarian tissue of a female member of the species. In culture, HJ1.Ov cells are morphologically similar to epithelial cells and typically exhibit adherent growth to glass and polymer surfaces.

Transformed (Simian Virus 40) African Green Monkey Kidney Fibroblast Cells (COS-7) - Adherent growth to both glass and plastic surfaces is characteristic of COS-7 cells in culture. The line, which is often utilized as a transfection host, retains the CV-1 trait of complete permissiveness for the lytic growth of SV40 and supports the replication of the tsA209 strain of the virus at 40 degrees Celsius as well as SV40 mutants with deletions in the early region. COS-7 cells are a popular research tool, especially for transfection experiments with recombinant plasmids.

Contributing Authors

Nathan S. Claxton, Shannon H. Neaves, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.