In vitro models of macrophage growth, differentiation, and function are needed to facilitate the study of their biology as important immune facilitator cells and as frequent targets of bacterial and viral infection. A simple method for the selective expansion and continuous culture of mouse macrophages from primary explant cultures of mouse embryonic tissue is described. Culture in Dulbecco modified Eagle medium (DMEM) low-glucose (1 g/L) formulation (DMEM/L) inhibited fibroblast growth. In contrast, macrophages continued to proliferate in the presence of DMEM/L when in contact with the fibroblasts. Alternating growth in high-glucose DMEM with DMEM/L produced a 1.16- to 2.1-fold increase (depending on mouse strain) in the percentage of macrophages within the cell culture in comparison with culturing in DMEM with high glucose exclusively. Macrophage yields of over 1 million cells/T12.5 flask were achieved by passages 3–4, and, thereafter, declined over the next 5–10 passages. The peak percentage of macrophages within a culture varied depending on the strain of mouse (C57BL/6, CD-1, and CF-1 and two knockout C57BL/6 strains deficient in either interleukin-6 [IL-6] or granulocyte colony stimulating factor [GCSF]). The GCSF (−/−)-derived cultures had the lowest peak macrophage content (30%) and CD-1 the highest content (64.9%). The IL-6 (−/−) and CD-1 cultures appeared to spontaneously transform to create cell lines (IL6MAC and CD1MAC, respectively) that were composed of 50–75% macrophages. The macrophages were phagocytic and were positive for CD14, acetylated low-density lipoprotein receptors, and F4-80 antigen. Light and electron microscopy showed that the cultured macrophages had in vivo–like morphological features, and they could be plated to high purity by differential attachment to petri dishes in serum-free medium.
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Vol. 40 • No. 7