A primary culture system of mouse thick ascending limb cells with preserved function and uromodulin processing

Bob Glaudemans, Sara Terryn, Nadine Gölz, Martina Brunati, Angela Cattaneo, Angela Bachi, Lama Al-Qusairi, Urs Ziegler, Olivier Staub, Luca Rampoldi, Olivier Devuyst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The epithelial cells lining the thick ascending limb (TAL) of the loop of Henle perform essential transport processes and secrete uromodulin, the most abundant protein in normal urine. The lack of differentiated cell culture systems has hampered studies of TAL functions. Here, we report a method to generate differentiated primary cultures of TAL cells, developed from microdissected tubules obtained in mouse kidneys. The TAL tubules cultured on permeable filters formed polarized confluent monolayers in ∼12 days. The TAL cells remain differentiated and express functional markers such as uromodulin, NKCC2, and ROMK at the apical membrane. Electrophysiological measurements on primary TAL monolayers showed a lumen-positive transepithelial potential (+9.4 ± 0.8 mV/cm2) and transepithelial resistance similar to that recorded in vivo. The transepithelial potential is abolished by apical bumetanide and in primary cultures obtained from ROMK knockout mice. The processing, maturation and apical secretion of uromodulin by primary TAL cells is identical to that observed in vivo. The primary TAL cells respond appropriately to hypoxia, hypertonicity, and stimulation by desmopressin, and they can be transfected. The establishment of this primary culture system will allow the investigation of TAL cells obtained from genetically modified mouse models, providing a critical tool for understanding the role of that segment in health and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-356
Number of pages14
JournalPflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Epithelial transport
  • Loop of Henle
  • NKCC2
  • ROMK
  • TAL

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)


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