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Caco-2 cells form an enterocyte-like monolayer that has been used to explore small intestinal microparticle uptake. They are a useful functional model for the investigation of in vivo drug delivery systems and the uptake of particulate environmental pollutants. The aim of this paper was to determine if the previously reported decrease in Caco-2 transepithelial resistance following exposure to macrophages was matched by increased microparticle uptake, especially as macrophage phagocytosis simulates removal of particles from the subepithelial compartment. Caco-2 cells were grown as a monoculture for 21 days on insert membranes. A compartmentalised model involved Caco-2 cells in the upper compartment, with THP-1-derived macrophages adhering to the base of the underlying well, the two cell populations communicating only through the shared culture medium. Caco-2 cells were also cultured in macrophage-conditioned medium and all groups were exposed apically to 2 μm latex particles for 5 or 60 min. Parameters measured were: transepithelial resistance; cytokine levels; cell dimensions and the distribution of nuclei, actin and junctional proteins. Subepithelial particle numbers, defined as those located below the insert membrane, were also counted and were significantly increased in the Caco-2/macrophage model, with over 90% associated with the macrophages. Other changes induced by the presence of macrophages included decreased transepithelial resistance levels, diffuse localisation of some junctional proteins, higher proinflammatory cytokine levels, disorganisation of cell shape and decreased cell height associated with actin reorganisation. Macrophage-conditioned medium produced a smaller transepithelial resistance decrease than the Caco-2/macrophage model and there were few other changes. In conclusion, culture of Caco-2 cells with underlying macrophages produced a lower, less organised epithelium and greater microparticle uptake.

Original publication




Journal article


J Anat

Publication Date





740 - 754


Biological Transport, Caco-2 Cells, Cells, Cultured, Cytokines, Electric Impedance, Epithelium, Humans, Intestinal Mucosa, Latex, Macrophages, Microspheres, Particle Size