Development of a neurotoxicity test-system, using human post-mitotic, astrocytic and neuronal cell lines in co-culture

E.K. Woehrling*, E.J. Hill, M.D. Coleman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Astrocytes are essential for neuronal function and survival, so both cell types were included in a human neurotoxicity test-system to assess the protective effects of astrocytes on neurons, compared with a culture of neurons alone. The human NT2.D1 cell line was differentiated to form either a co-culture of post-mitotic NT2.N neuronal (TUJ1, NF68 and NSE positive) and NT2.A astrocytic (GFAP positive) cells (∼2:1 NT2.A:NT2.N), or an NT2.N mono-culture. Cultures were exposed to human toxins, for 4 h at sub-cytotoxic concentrations, in order to compare levels of compromised cell function and thus evidence of an astrocytic protective effect. Functional endpoints examined included assays for cellular energy (ATP) and glutathione (GSH) levels, generation of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and caspase-3 activation. Generally, the NT2.N/A co-culture was more resistant to toxicity, maintaining superior ATP and GSH levels and sustaining smaller significant increases in H2O2 levels compared with neurons alone. However, the pure neuronal culture showed a significantly lower level of caspase activation. These data suggest that besides their support for neurons through maintenance of ATP and GSH and control of H2O2 levels, following exposure to some substances, astrocytes may promote an apoptotic mode of cell death. Thus, it appears the use of astrocytes in an in vitro predictive neurotoxicity test-system may be more relevant to human CNS structure and function than neuronal cells alone. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1241-1246
Number of pages6
JournalToxicology in Vitro
Issue number7
Early online date1 May 2007
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007
Event14th International Workshop on In Vitro Toxicology - Ostend, Belgium
Duration: 2 Oct 20065 Oct 2006


  • co-culture
  • neurotoxicity
  • NT2.A
  • NT2.N
  • post-mitotic


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