Adult guinea pig glomeruli were grown in vitro either in serum or in a chemically defined medium. Glomeruli were plated either directly into plastic flasks or into plastic flasks that had been coated with the extracellular matrix produced by the PF-HR-9 mouse teratocarcinoma endodermal cell line. Both the composition of the medium and the nature of the culture substrate affected whole glomerular attachment and the type of cells produced in culture. Quantitative studies demonstrated selection of cell types by different culture conditions. Three colony types, each composed of distinctive cell types, could be identified by morphological features. The cells constituting two of these colony types were epithelial in nature, but they were identified as different epithelial types by both histochemical and ultrastructural criteria. Previous studies suggested that one epithelial cell type was derived from the glomerular visceral epithelial cell. This study demonstrates that this cell type could be selectively grown in defined medium on plastic. A second cell type showed several features of renal tubular epithelial cells, including histochemical staining for catalase, cell surface microvilli and cilia, and formation of hemicysts and structures that resembled tubules after prolonged periods in culture. To demonstrate that the ‘glomerulus-derived’ tubular cells were indeed tubular epithelium, we isolated purified renal cortical tubules (greater than 99% pure) and cultured them on the HR-9 matrix in a serum-free chemically defined medium. The resultant outgrowths had morphological properties identical to those of the glomerulus-derived tubular cells. It seems likely that small tubular fragments attached to a minority of the glomeruli are the source of these glomerulus-derived tubular cells. Neither epithelial cell type could be subcultured on plastic, but both could be passaged on the HR-9 matrix. A third cell type, the spindle-shaped cell, was easily propagated on both plastic and the HR-9 matrix. The origin of this cell type is not clear. Our results demonstrate the important effect of culture conditions on the selection, growth and differentiation of kidney cell types in vitro.

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