Primary airway epithelial cell cultures can provide a faithful representation of the in vivo airway while allowing for a controlled nutrient source and isolation from other tissues or immune cells. The methods used have significant differences based on tissue source, cell isolation, culture conditions, and assessment of culture purity. We modified and optimized a method for generating tracheal epithelial cultures from Syrian golden hamsters and characterized the cultures for cell composition and function. Soon after initial plating, the epithelial cells reached a high transepithelial resistance and formed tight junctions. The cells differentiated into a heterogeneous, multicellular culture containing ciliated, secretory, and basal cells after culture at an air–liquid interface (ALI). The secretory cell populations initially consisted of MUC5AC-positive goblet cells and MUC5AC/CCSP double-positive cells, but the makeup changed to predominantly Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP)–positive Clara cells after 14 d. The ciliated cell populations differentiated rapidly after ALI, as judged by the appearance of β tubulin IV–positive cells. The cultures produced mucus, CCSP, and trypsin-like proteases and were capable of wound repair as judged by increased expression of matrilysin. Our method provides an efficient, high-yield protocol for producing differentiated hamster tracheal epithelial cells that can be used for a variety of in vitro studies including tracheal cell differentiation, airway disease mechanisms, and pathogen–host interactions.
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Vol. 40 • No. 10