Astrocytes are activated in most chronic neurodegenerative diseases associated with inflammatory events such as Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease, but also in stroke. Due to an aging population worldwide, research efforts in these areas are likely to expand in the future. This will entail an increased demand for appropriate experimental models. We introduce here the new immortalized mouse astrocyte cell line IMA 2.1 as an alternative to currently used primary astrocyte cultures. IMA 2.1 were directly compared with primary mouse astrocytes with respect to their response to proinflammatory stimuli, expression of typical astrocyte markers, and to the cell line's capacity to metabolize the parkinsonian toxin MPTP to its toxic metabolite MPP+. Under inflammatory conditions, mimicked with the addition of a cytokine mix, IMA 2.1 responded similarly to primary astrocytes with mRNA upregulation, expression of iNOS and COX-2, and the release of various inflammatory mediators. Analysis of astrocytic markers indicated that IMA 2.1 represent a relatively early, GFAP-negative stage of astrocyte development. Moreover, conversion of MPTP by monoamine oxidase-B proceeded in IMA at least as quickly as in primary cells. For all endpoints investigated, the cell line IMA 2.1, derived from a single clone, delivered reproducible results over a period of several years and allowed upscaling of experiments due to its easy handling compared with primary cells.

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