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Developmental Biology

Isolation and Time-Lapse Imaging of Primary Mouse Embryonic Palatal Mesenchyme Cells to Analyze Collective Movement Attributes

Published: February 13th, 2021



1Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Kansas Medical Center, 2Department of Biological Physics, Eotvos University
* These authors contributed equally

We present a protocol for isolation and culture of primary mouse embryonic palatal mesenchymal cells for time-lapse imaging of two-dimensional (2D) growth and wound-repair assays. We also provide the methodology for analysis of the time-lapse imaging data to determine cell-stream formation and directional motility.

Development of the palate is a dynamic process, which involves vertical growth of bilateral palatal shelves next to the tongue followed by elevation and fusion above the tongue. Defects in this process lead to cleft palate, a common birth defect. Recent studies have shown that palatal shelf elevation involves a remodeling process that transforms the orientation of the shelf from a vertical to a horizontal one. The role of the palatal shelf mesenchymal cells in this dynamic remodeling has been difficult to study. Time-lapse-imaging-based quantitative analysis has been recently used to show that primary mouse embryonic palatal mesenchymal (MEPM) cells can self-organize into a collective movement. Quantitative analyses could identify differences in mutant MEPM cells from a mouse model with palate elevation defects. This paper describes methods to isolate and culture MEPM cells from E13.5 embryos-specifically for time-lapse imaging-and to determine various cellular attributes of collective movement, including measures for stream formation, shape alignment, and persistence of direction. It posits that MEPM cells can serve as a proxy model for studying the role of palatal shelf mesenchyme during the dynamic process of elevation. These quantitative methods will allow investigators in the craniofacial field to assess and compare collective movement attributes in control and mutant cells, which will augment the understanding of mesenchymal remodeling during palatal shelf elevation. Furthermore, MEPM cells provide a rare mesenchymal cell model for investigation of collective cell movement in general.

Palate development has been studied extensively as defects in palatogenesis lead to cleft palate-a common birth defect that occurs in isolated cases or as part of hundreds of syndromes1,2. The development of the embryonic palate is a dynamic process that involves movement and fusion of embryonic tissue. This process can be divided into four major steps: 1) induction of palatal shelves, 2) vertical growth of the palatal shelves next to the tongue, 3) elevation of the palatal shelves above the tongue, and 4) fusion of the palatal shelves at the midline1,3

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All experiments involving animals were carried out with a protocol approved by the KUMC Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, in accordance with their guidelines and regulations (Protocol Number: 2018-2447).

1. Harvest E13.5 embryos

  1. Euthanize pregnant female mice using a CO2 inhalation chamber or by a procedure approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Immediately proceed to dissection.
  2. Expose the inferior half of the abdominal cavity .......

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The dissection of palatal shelves is illustrated in Figure 1. The sequence of incisions is designed to minimize slippage of the tissue. Following the removal of the head (Figure 1A,B), the lower jaw is removed (Figure 1B,C). The incision of the upper part of the head (Figure 1C,D) is done to stabilize the tissue when placed upside down (

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Palatal shelf elevation constitutes a vertical to horizontal remodeling event1,3,4,9,11. It is postulated that this remodeling process requires palatal shelf mesenchymal cells to behave coordinately. The analyses with wildtype MEPM cells show that this cell behavior is intrinsic and can be quantitated21. Thus, these assays can be used t.......

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This project was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health grants DE026172 (I.S.), and GM102801 (A.C.). I.S. was also supported in part by the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant (National Institute of General Medical Sciences P20 GM104936), Kansas IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence grant (National Institute of General Medical Sciences P20 GM103418), and Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (KIDDRC) grant (U54 Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, HD090216).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Beaker, 250 mL (x2) Fisher Scientific FB-100-250
CO2 Matheson Gas UN1013
Conical tubes, 15 mL (x1) Midwest Scientific C15B
Debian operating system computational analysis of time-lapse images
Dulbecco's Modified Eagles Medium/High Glucose with 4 mM L-Glutamine and Sodium Pyruvate Cytiva Life Sciences SH30243.01
EtOH, 100% Decon Laboratories 2701
EVOS FL Auto ThermoFisher Scientific AMAFD1000
EVOS Onstage Incubator ThermoFisher Scientific AMC1000
EVOS Onstage Vessel Holder, Multi-Well Plates ThermoFisher Scientific AMEPVH028
Fetal Bovine Serum Corning 35-010-CV
Fine point #5 Stainless Steel Forceps (x2) Fine Science Tools 11295-10 Dissection
Instrument sterilizer bead bath Fine Science Tools 18000-45
Microcetrifuge tubes, 1.5mL Avant 2925
Micro-Dissecting Stainless Steel Scissors, Straight Roboz RS-5910 Dissection
NucBlue (Hoechst) Live Ready Probes ThermoFisher Scientific R37605
Penicillin Streptomycin Solution, 100x Corning 30-002-CI
Silicone Insert, 2-well Ibidi 80209
Small Perforated Stainless Steel Spoon Fine Science Tools MC17C Dissection
Spring Scissors, 4 mm Fine Science Tools 15018-10
Sterile 10 cm dishe(s) Corning 430293
Sterile 12-well plate(s) PR1MA 667512
Sterile 6-well plate(s) Thermo Fisher Scientific 140675
Sterile PBS Corning 21-031-CV
Sterile plastic bulb transfer pipette ThermoFisher Scientific 202-1S
Trypsin, 0.25% ThermoFisher Scientific 25200056

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