Branching morphogenesis of mouse salivary gland has been studied with organ-culture system. We developed a novel transfilter culture system for analyzing branching morphogenesis of the salivary epithelium. The submandibular salivary epithelium from early 13-day mouse fetus, clotted with Matrigel and separated from the mesenchyme by membrane filter, showed extensive growth and branching morphogenesis, morphological differentiation of lobules and stalks, and a typical cleft shape. The epithelium showed little growth and no branching without Matrigel clot or without the mesenchyme. This branching morphogenesis was induced even when the pore size of the filter was reduced to 0.05 microns. Use of type I collagen gel instead of Matrigel mostly induced incomplete morphogenesis with various histological abnormalities. These results suggest that the salivary epithelium can undergo branching morphogenesis in the absence of the mechanical action of mesenchymal cells although it needs an appropriate extracellular matrix and some mesenchymal factors transmitted through the filter.

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