Isolated human eccrine sweat glands have been microdissected into their secretory and reabsorptive components. Complete separation of these epithelia was confirmed by differential uptake of Neutral Red stain by an intermediate section of gland containing the junction between the secretory coil and the collecting duct. Primary cultures were obtained from explants of both tissues in medium RPMI-1640 or Williams E supplemented with foetal calf serum, insulin, transferrin, epidermal growth factor and hydrocortisone. The cells in the initial coil cultures had an elongated morphology while those of ductal origin were polyhedral. After 10 days both cultures were composed of polyhedral cells of varying diameter. All these morphological types were of epithelial lineage, as demonstrated by the binding of a monoclonal antibody to cytokeratin, the intermediate filament specific for epithelial cells. Outgrowth from both secretory and reabsorptive epithelia were multilayered, with plentiful desmosomal connections and an underlying basal lamina. Ultrastructural features typical of the epithelial cell types present in intact eccrine sweat glands were absent in a high proportion of the proliferating cells but domes, indicative of transepithelial active ion transport, were present in dense cultures from the reabsorptive duct. Outgrowth was also obtained from the secretory and reabsorptive epithelia of sweat glands from two cystic fibrotic patients. Since the most characteristic malfunction of cystic fibrosis is the impaired ion transport in the eccrine sweat gland, the availability of cultured epithelia should provide a useful model for study of the disease.

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