Quantitative Analysis of Intestinal Stem Cell Dynamics Using Microfabricated Cell Culture Arrays

Samsa LA, Williamson IA, Magness ST

Methods Mol Biol. 2018;1842:139-166. PMID: 30196407

Abstract

Regeneration of intestinal epithelium is fueled by a heterogeneous population of rapidly proliferating stem cells (ISCs) found in the base of the small intestine and colonic crypts. ISCs populations can be enriched by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) based on expression of combinatorial cell surface markers, and fluorescent transgenes. Conventional ISC culture is performed by embedding single ISCs or whole crypt units in a matrix and culturing in conditions that stimulate or repress key pathways to recapitulate ISC niche signaling. Cultured ISCs form organoid, which are spherical, epithelial monolayers that are self-renewing, self-patterning, and demonstrate the full complement of intestinal epithelial cell lineages. However, this conventional "bulk" approach to studying ISC biology is often semiquantitative, low throughput, and masks clonal effects and ISC phenotypic heterogeneity. Our group has recently reported the construction, long-term biocompatibility, and use of microfabricated cell raft arrays (CRA) for high-throughput analysis of single ISCs and organoids. CRAs are composed of thousands of indexed and independently retrievable microwells, which in combination with time-lapse microscopy and/or gene-expression analyses are a powerful tool for studying clonal ISC dynamics and micro-niches. In this protocol, we describe how CRAs are used as an adaptable experimental platform to study the effect of exogenous factors on clonal stem cell behavior.

A High-Throughput Organoid Microinjection Platform to Study Gastrointestinal Microbiota and Luminal Physiology

Williamson IA, Arnold JW, Samsa LA, Gaynor L, DiSalvo M, Cocchiaro JL, Carroll I, Azcarate-Peril MA, Rawls JF, Allbritton NL, Magness ST.

Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 May 22;6(3):301-319. eCollection 2018. PMID: 30123820

Abstract

BACKGROUND & AIMS: The human gut microbiota is becoming increasingly recognized as a key factor in homeostasis and disease. The lack of physiologically relevant in vitro models to investigate host-microbe interactions is considered a substantial bottleneck for microbiota research. Organoids represent an attractive model system because they are derived from primary tissues and embody key properties of the native gut lumen; however, access to the organoid lumen for experimental perturbation is challenging. Here, we report the development and validation of a high-throughput organoid microinjection system for cargo delivery to the organoid lumen and high-content sampling. METHODS: A microinjection platform was engineered using off-the-shelf and 3-dimensional printed components. Microinjection needles were modified for vertical trajectories and reproducible injection volumes. Computer vision (CVis) and microfabricated CellRaft Arrays (Cell Microsystems, Research Triangle Park, NC) were used to increase throughput and enable high-content sampling of mock bacterial communities. Modeling preformed using the COMSOL Multiphysics platform predicted a hypoxic luminal environment that was functionally validated by transplantation of fecal-derived microbial communities and monocultures of a nonsporulating anaerobe. RESULTS: CVis identified and logged locations of organoids suitable for injection. Reproducible loads of 0.2 nL could be microinjected into the organoid lumen at approximately 90 organoids/h. CVis analyzed and confirmed retention of injected cargos in approximately 500 organoids over 18 hours and showed the requirement to normalize for organoid growth for accurate assessment of barrier function. CVis analyzed growth dynamics of a mock community of green fluorescent protein- or Discosoma sp. red fluorescent protein-expressing bacteria, which grew within the organoid lumen even in the presence of antibiotics to control media contamination. Complex microbiota communities from fecal samples survived and grew in the colonoid lumen without appreciable changes in complexity. CONCLUSIONS: High-throughput microinjection into organoids represents a next-generation in vitro approach to investigate gastrointestinal luminal physiology and the gastrointestinal microbiota.

Bioengineered Systems and Designer Matrices That Recapitulate the Intestinal Stem Cell Niche

Wang Y, Kim R, Hinman SS, Zwarycz B, Magness ST, Allbritton NL

Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Jan 17;5(3):440-453. eCollection 2018 Mar. Review. PMID: 29675459

Abstract

The relationship between intestinal stem cells (ISCs) and the surrounding niche environment is complex and dynamic. Key factors localized at the base of the crypt are necessary to promote ISC self-renewal and proliferation, to ultimately provide a constant stream of differentiated cells to maintain the epithelial barrier. These factors diminish as epithelial cells divide, migrate away from the crypt base, differentiate into the postmitotic lineages, and end their life span in approximately 7 days when they are sloughed into the intestinal lumen. To facilitate the rapid and complex physiology of ISC-driven epithelial renewal, in vivo gradients of growth factors, extracellular matrix, bacterial products, gases, and stiffness are formed along the crypt-villus axis. New bioengineered tools and platforms are available to recapitulate various gradients and support the stereotypical cellular responses associated with these gradients. Many of these technologies have been paired with primary small intestinal and colonic epithelial cells to re-create select aspects of normal physiology or disease states. These biomimetic platforms are becoming increasingly sophisticated with the rapid discovery of new niche factors and gradients. These advancements are contributing to the development of high-fidelity tissue constructs for basic science applications, drug screening, and personalized medicine applications. Here, we discuss the direct and indirect evidence for many of the important gradients found in vivo and their successful application to date in bioengineered in vitro models, including organ-on-chip and microfluidic culture devices.

Development of Arrayed Colonic Organoids for Screening of Secretagogues Associated with Enterotoxins

Gunasekara DB, DiSalvo M, Wang Y, Nguyen DL, Reed MI, Speer J, Sims CE, Magness ST, Allbritton NL

Anal Chem. 2018 Feb 6;90(3):1941-1950. Epub 2018 Jan 12. PMID: 29281259

Abstract

Enterotoxins increase intestinal fluid secretion through modulation of ion channels as well as activation of the enteric nervous and immune systems. Colonic organoids, also known as colonoids, are functionally and phenotypically similar to in vivo colonic epithelium and have been used to study intestinal ion transport and subsequent water flux in physiology and disease models. In conventional cultures, organoids exist as spheroids embedded within a hydrogel patty of extracellular matrix, and they form at multiple depths, impairing efficient imaging necessary to capture data from statistically relevant sample sizes. To overcome these limitations, an analytical platform with colonic organoids localized to the planar surface of a hydrogel layer was developed. The arrays of densely packed colonoids (140 μm average diameter, 4 colonoids/mm2) were generated in a 96-well plate, enabling assay of the response of hundreds of organoids so that organoid subpopulations with distinct behaviors were identifiable. Organoid cell types, monolayer polarity, and growth were similar to those embedded in hydrogel. An automated imaging and analysis platform efficiently tracked over time swelling due to forskolin and fluid movement across the cell monolayer stimulated by cholera toxin. The platform was used to screen compounds associated with the enteric nervous and immune systems for their effect on fluid movement across epithelial cells. Prostaglandin E2 promoted increased water flux in a subset of organoids that resulted in organoid swelling, confirming a role for this inflammatory mediator in diarrheal conditions but also illustrating organoid differences in response to an identical stimulus. By allowing sampling of a large number of organoids, the arrayed organoid platform permits identification of organoid subpopulations intermixed within a larger group of nonresponding organoids. This technique will enable automated, large-scale screening of the impact of drugs, toxins, and other compounds on colonic physiology.

In Vitro Polarization of Colonoids to Create an Intestinal Stem Cell Compartment

Attayek PJ, Ahmad AA, Wang Y, Williamson I, Sims CE, Magness ST, Allbritton NL

PLoS One. 2016 Apr 21;11(4):e0153795.  PMID: 27100890

Abstract

The polarity of proliferative and differentiated cellular compartments of colonic crypts is believed to be specified by gradients of key mitogens and morphogens. Indirect evidence demonstrates a tight correlation between Wnt- pathway activity and the basal-luminal patterning; however, to date there has been no direct experimental manipulation demonstrating that a chemical gradient of signaling factors can produce similar patterning under controlled conditions. In the current work, colonic organoids (colonoids) derived from cultured, multicellular organoid fragments or single stem cells were exposed in culture to steep linear gradients of two Wnt-signaling ligands, Wnt-3a and R-spondin1. The use of a genetically engineered Sox9-Sox9EGFP:CAGDsRED reporter gene mouse model and EdU-based labeling enabled crypt patterning to be quantified in the developing colonoids. Colonoids derived from multicellular fragments cultured for 5 days under a Wnt-3a or a combined Wnt-3a and R-spondin1 gradient were highly polarized with proliferative cells localizing to the region of the higher morphogen concentration. In a Wnt-3a gradient, Sox9EGFP polarization was 7.3 times greater than that of colonoids cultured in the absence of a gradient; and the extent of EdU polarization was 2.2 times greater than that in the absence of a gradient. Under a Wnt-3a/R-spondin1 gradient, Sox9EGFP polarization was 8.2 times greater than that of colonoids cultured in the absence of a gradient while the extent of EdU polarization was 10 times greater than that in the absence of a gradient. Colonoids derived from single stem cells cultured in Wnt-3a/R-spondin1 gradients were most highly polarized demonstrated by a Sox9EGFP polarization 20 times that of colonoids grown in the absence of a gradient. This data provides direct evidence that a linear gradient of Wnt signaling factors applied to colonic stem cells is sufficient to direct patterning of the colonoid unit in culture.

A high-throughput platform for stem cell niche co-cultures and downstream gene expression analysis

 

Gracz AD, Williamson IA, Roche KC, Johnston MJ, Wang F, Wang Y, Attayek PJ, Balowski J, Liu XF, Laurenza RJ, Gaynor LT, Sims CE, Galenko JA, Li L, Allbritton NL, Magness ST.

Nat Cell Biol. 2015 Mar;17(3):340-9. Epub 2015 Feb 9 PMID: 25664616

Abstract

Stem cells reside in ‘niches’, where support cells provide critical signalling for tissue renewal. Culture methods mimic niche conditions and support the growth of stem cells in vitro. However, current functional assays preclude statistically meaningful studies of clonal stem cells, stem cell–niche interactions, and genetic analysis of single cells and their organoid progeny. Here, we describe a ‘microraft array’ (MRA) that facilitates high-throughput clonogenic culture and computational identification of single intestinal stem cells (ISCs) and niche cells. We use MRAs to demonstrate that Paneth cells, a known ISC niche component, enhance organoid formation in a contact-dependent manner. MRAs facilitate retrieval of early enteroids for quantitative PCR to correlate functional properties, such as enteroid morphology, with differences in gene expression. MRAs have broad applicability to assaying stem cell–niche interactions and organoid development, and serve as a high-throughput culture platform to interrogate gene expression at early stages of stem cell fate choices.

In vitro generation of colonic epithelium from primary cells guided by microstructures

Wang Y, Ahmad AA, Sims CE, Magness ST, Allbritton NL.

Lab Chip. 2014 May 7;14(9):1622-31. Epub 2014 Mar 20. PMID: 24647645

Abstract

The proliferative compartment of the colonic epithelium in vivo is located in the basal crypt where colonic stem cells and transit-amplifying cells reside and fuel the rapid renewal of non-proliferative epithelial cells as they migrate toward the gut lumen. To mimic this tissue polarity, microstructures composed of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microwells and Matrigel micropockets were used to guide a combined 2-dimensional (2D) and 3-dimensional (3D) hybrid culture of primary crypts isolated from the murine colon. The 2D and 3D culture of crypts on a planar PDMS surface was first investigated in terms of cell proliferation and stem cell activity. 3D culture of crypts with overlaid Matrigel generated enclosed, but highly proliferative spheroids (termed colonoids). 2D culture of crypts produced a spreading monolayer of cells, which were non-proliferative. A combined 2D/3D hybrid culture was generated in a PDMS microwell platform on which crypts were loaded by centrifugation into microwells (diameter = 150 μm, depth = 150 μm) followed by addition of Matrigel that formed micropockets locking the crypts within the microwells. Embedded crypts first underwent 3D expansion inside the wells. After the cells filled the microwells, they migrated onto the surrounding surface forming a 2D monolayer in the array regions without Matrigel. This unique 2D/3D hybrid culture generated a continuous, millimeter-scale colonic epithelial tissue in vitro, which resembled the polarized architecture (i.e. distinct proliferative and non-proliferative zones) and geometry of the colonic epithelium in vivo. This work initiates the construction of a "colon-on-a-chip" using primary cells/tissues with the ultimate goal of producing the physiologic structure and organ-level function of the colon.

Capture and 3D culture of colonic crypts and colonoids in a microarray platform

 

Wang Y, Ahmad AA, Shah PK, Sims CE, Magness ST, Allbritton NL.

Lab Chip. 2013 Dec 7;13(23):4625-34. PMID: 24113577

Abstract

The proliferative compartment of the colonic epithelium in vivo is located in the basal crypt where colonic stem cells and transit-amplifying cells reside and fuel the rapid renewal of non-proliferative epithelial cells as they migrate toward the gut lumen. To mimic this tissue polarity, microstructures composed of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microwells and Matrigel micropockets were used to guide a combined 2-dimensional (2D) and 3-dimensional (3D) hybrid culture of primary crypts isolated from the murine colon. The 2D and 3D culture of crypts on a planar PDMS surface was first investigated in terms of cell proliferation and stem cell activity. 3D culture of crypts with overlaid Matrigel generated enclosed, but highly proliferative spheroids (termed colonoids). 2D culture of crypts produced a spreading monolayer of cells, which were non-proliferative. A combined 2D/3D hybrid culture was generated in a PDMS microwell platform on which crypts were loaded by centrifugation into microwells (diameter = 150 μm, depth = 150 μm) followed by addition of Matrigel that formed micropockets locking the crypts within the microwells. Embedded crypts first underwent 3D expansion inside the wells. After the cells filled the microwells, they migrated onto the surrounding surface forming a 2D monolayer in the array regions without Matrigel. This unique 2D/3D hybrid culture generated a continuous, millimeter-scale colonic epithelial tissue in vitro, which resembled the polarized architecture (i.e. distinct proliferative and non-proliferative zones) and geometry of the colonic epithelium in vivo. This work initiates the construction of a "colon-on-a-chip" using primary cells/tissues with the ultimate goal of producing the physiologic structure and organ-level function of the colon.