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A new microphysiological system shows hypoxia primes human ISCs for interleukin-dependent rescue of stem cell activity

Rivera KR*, Bliton RJ*, Burclaff JR, Czerwinski MJ, Liu J, Trueblood JM, Hinesley CM, Breau KA, Joshi S, Pozdin VA, Yao M, Ziegler AL, Blikslager AT, Daniele MA, Magness ST.        *Authors contributed Equally 

BioRxiv; Feb; 2023 doi: PMID: TBD



Background & Aims: Hypoxia in the intestinal epithelium can be caused by acute ischemic events or conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) where immune cell infiltration produces ‘inflammatory hypoxia’, a chronic condition that starves the mucosa of oxygen. Epithelial regeneration after ischemia and IBD suggests intestinal stem cells (ISCs) are highly tolerant to acute and chronic hypoxia; however, the impact of acute and chronic hypoxia on human ISC (hISC) properties have not been reported. Here we present a new microphysiological system (MPS) to investigate how hypoxia affects hISCs isolated from healthy human tissues. We then test the hypothesis that some inflammation-associated interleukins protect hISCs during prolonged hypoxia. Methods: hISCs were exposed to <1.0% oxygen in the MPS for 6-, 24-, 48- & 72hrs. Viability, HIF1α response, transcriptomics, cell cycle dynamics, and hISC response to cytokines were evaluated. Results: The novel MPS enables precise, real-time control and monitoring of oxygen levels at the cell surface. Under hypoxia, hISCs remain viable until 72hrs and exhibit peak HIF1α at 24hrs. hISCs lose stem cell activity at 24hrs that recovers at 48hrs of hypoxia. Hypoxia increases the proportion of hISCs in G1 and regulates hISC capacity to respond to multiple inflammatory signals. Hypoxia induces hISCs to upregulate many interleukin receptors and hISCs demonstrate hypoxia-dependent cell cycle regulation and increased organoid forming efficiency when treated with specific interleukins Conclusions: Hypoxia primes hISCs to respond differently to interleukins than hISCs in normoxia through a transcriptional response. hISCs slow cell cycle progression and increase hISC activity when treated with hypoxia and specific interleukins. These findings have important implications for epithelial regeneration in the gut during inflammatory events.

IL22 Inhibits Epithelial Stem Cell Expansion in an Ileal Organoid Model

Zwarycz B, Gracz AD, Rivera KR, Williamson IA, Samsa LA, Starmer J, Daniele MA, Salter-Cid L, Zhao Q, Magness ST

Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Jul 4;7(1):1-17. eCollection 2019. PMID: 30364840



Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the ileum and is associated with increased cytokines. Although interleukin (IL)6, IL17, IL21, and IL22 are increased in Crohn's disease and are associated with disrupted epithelial regeneration, little is known about their effects on the intestinal stem cells (ISCs) that mediate tissue repair. We hypothesized that ILs may target ISCs and reduce ISC-driven epithelial renewal. METHODS: A screen of IL6, IL17, IL21, or IL22 was performed on ileal mouse organoids. Computational modeling was used to predict microenvironment cytokine concentrations. Organoid size, survival, proliferation, and differentiation were characterized by morphometrics, quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, and immunostaining on whole organoids or isolated ISCs. ISC function was assayed using serial passaging to single cells followed by organoid quantification. Single-cell RNA sequencing was used to assess Il22ra1 expression patterns in ISCs and transit-amplifying (TA) progenitors. An IL22-transgenic mouse was used to confirm the impact of increased IL22 on proliferative cells in vivo. RESULTS: High IL22 levels caused decreased ileal organoid survival, however, resistant organoids grew larger and showed increased proliferation over controls. Il22ra1 was expressed on only a subset of ISCs and TA progenitors. IL22-treated ISCs did not show appreciable differentiation defects, but ISC biomarker expression and self-renewal-associated pathway activity was reduced and accompanied by an inhibition of ISC expansion. In vivo, chronically increased IL22 levels, similar to predicted microenvironment levels, showed increases in proliferative cells in the TA zone with no increase in ISCs. CONCLUSIONS: 

Increased IL22 limits ISC expansion in favor of increased TA progenitor cell expansion.

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



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



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.

Integrated phosphorescence-based photonic biosensor (iPOB) for monitoring oxygen levels in 3D cell culture systems

Rivera KR, Pozdin VA, Young AT, Erb PD, Wisniewski NA, Magness ST, Daniele M.

Biosens Bioelectron. 2019 Jan 1;123:131-140.  Epub 2018 Jul 21. PMID: 30060990



Physiological processes, such as respiration, circulation, digestion, and many pathologies alter oxygen concentration in the blood and tissue. When designing culture systems to recapitulate the in vivo oxygen environment, it is important to integrate systems for monitoring and controlling oxygen concentration. Herein, we report the design and engineering of a system to remotely monitor and control oxygen concentration inside a device for 3D cell culture. We integrate a photonic oxygen biosensor into the 3D tissue scaffold and regulate oxygen concentration via the control of purging gas flow. The integrated phosphorescence-based oxygen biosensor employs the quenching of palladium-benzoporphyrin by molecular oxygen to transduce the local oxygen concentration in the 3D tissue scaffold. The system is validated by testing the effects of normoxic and hypoxic culture conditions on healthy and tumorigenic breast epithelial cells, MCF-10A cells and BT474 cells, respectively. Under hypoxic conditions, both cell types exhibited upregulation of downstream target genes for the hypoxia marker gene, hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1A). Lastly, by monitoring the real-time fluctuation of oxygen concentration, we illustrated the formation of hypoxic culture conditions due to limited diffusion of oxygen through 3D tissue scaffolds.

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



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.

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