Primary rat hepatocytes can self-assemble to form multicellular spheroids when plated onto Primaria petri dishes. Spheroids have been observed to exhibit enhanced liver-specific functions and differentiated ultrastructure compared to monolayer cultures on dry collagen. With confocal scanning laser microscopy, CYP1A1 activity was evaluated in situ by detecting resorufin. This highly fluorescent molecule is the P450-mediated product of 7-ethoxyresorufin O-dealkylation (EROD). Significantly higher P450 activity was observed in spheroids compared to monolayers on collagen upon induction with 50 μM β-naphthoflavone (BNF), a CYP1A inducer. This was confirmed by measuring microsomal EROD activity. The distribution of CYP1A1 activity within spheroids was heterogeneous, with higher activity localized to the hepatocytes in the interior. During the process of spheroid formation, cells were initially seen to attach and spread out as a monolayer. This stage was associated with relatively low CYP1A1 activity. As cells formed multicellular structures and aggregated into spheroids, the level of CYP1A1 activity increased over time. At least a fivefold higher fluorescence intensity was observed in spheroids compared to that of monolayers maintained on collagen. The higher P450 activity within spheroids may be associated with their ability to maintain a greater degree of differentiation compared to monolayers. These studies demonstrate the potential of hepatocyte spheroids as a model system for investigating drug metabolism, tissue engineering, and tissue self-assembly.
- Confocal microscopy
- Cytochrome P450