Endothelial cells provide a useful research model in many areas of vascular biology. Since its first isolation, human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) have shown to be convenient, easy to obtain and culture, and thus are the most widely studied endothelial cells. However, for research focused on processes like angiogenesis, permeability or many others, microvascular endothelial cells (ECs) are a much more physiologically relevant model to study. Furthermore, ECs isolated from knockout mice provide a useful tool for analysis of protein function ex vivo. Several approaches to isolate and culture microvascular ECs of different origin have been reported to date, but consistent isolation and culture of pure ECs is still a major technical problem in many laboratories. Here, we provide a step-by-step protocol on a reliable and relatively simple method of isolating and culturing mouse lung endothelial cells (MLECs). In this approach, lung tissue obtained from 6- to 8-day old pups is first cut into pieces, digested with collagenase/dispase (C/D) solution and dispersed mechanically into single-cell suspension. MLECS are purified from cell suspension using positive selection with anti-PECAM-1 antibody conjugated to Dynabeads using a Magnetic Particle Concentrator (MPC). Such purified cells are cultured on gelatin-coated tissue culture (TC) dishes until they become confluent. At that point, cells are further purified using Dynabeads coupled to anti-ICAM-2 antibody. MLECs obtained with this protocol exhibit a cobblestone phenotype, as visualized by phase-contrast light microscopy, and their endothelial phenotype has been confirmed using FACS analysis with anti-VE-cadherin and anti-VEGFR2 antibodies and immunofluorescent staining of VE-cadherin. In our hands, this two-step isolation procedure consistently and reliably yields a pure population of MLECs, which can be further cultured. This method will enable researchers to take advantage of the growing number of knockout and transgenic mice to directly correlate in vivo studies with results of in vitro experiments performed on isolated MLECs and thus help to reveal molecular mechanisms of vascular phenotypes observed in vivo.
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