Rat small intestinal epithelial cell lines have been established in vitro and subcultured serially for periods up to 6 mo. These cells have an epithelioid morphology, grow as monolayers of closely opposed polygonal cells, and during the logarithmic phase of growth have a population doubling time of 19--22 h. Ultrastructural studies revealed the presence of microvilli, tight junctions, an extensive Golgi complex, and the presence of extracellular amorphous material similar in appearance to isolated basement membrane. These cells exhibit a number of features characteristic of normal cells in culture; namely, a normal rat diploid karyotype, strong density inhibition of growth, lack of growth in soft agar, and a low plating efficiency when seeded at low density. They did not produce tumors when injected in syngeneic animals. Immunochemical studies were performed to determine their origin using antisera prepared against rat small intestinal crypt cell plasma membrane, brush border membrane of villus cells and isolated sucrase-isomaltase complex. Antigenic determinants specific for small intestinal epithelial (crypt and villus) cells were demonstrated on the surface of the epithelioid cells, but they lacked immunological determinants specific for differentiated villus cells. An antiserum specifically staining extracellular material surrounding the cells cultured in vitro demonstrated cross-reactivity to basement membrane in rat intestinal frozen sections. It is concluded that the cultured epithelioid cells have features of undifferentiated small intestinal crypt cells.

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