Cultured gill epithelia as models for the freshwater fish gill

Chris M. Wood, Scott P. Kelly, Bingsheng Zhou, Mary Fletcher, Mike O'Donnell, Brighitta Eletti, Peter Pärt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


We review recent progress in the development of models for the freshwater teleost gill based on reconstructed flat epithelia grown on permeable filter supports in primary culture. Methods are available for single-seeded insert (SSI) preparations consisting of pavement cells (PVCs) only from trout and tilapia, and double-seeded insert (DSI) preparations from trout, containing both PVCs (85%) and mitochondria-rich cells (MRCs, 15%), as in the intact gill. While there are some quantitative differences, both SSI and DSI epithelia manifest electrical and passive permeability characteristics typical of intact gills and representative of very tight epithelia. Both preparations withstand apical freshwater exposure, exhibiting large increases in transepithelial resistance (TER), negative transepithelial potential (TEP), and low rates of ion loss, but there is only a small active apical-to-basolateral "influx" of Cl- (and not of Na+). Responses to various hormonal treatments are described (thyroid hormone T3, prolactin, and cortisol). Cortisol has the most marked effects, stimulating Na+,K+-ATPase activity and promoting active Na+ and Cl- influxes in DSI preparations, and raising TER and reducing passive ion effluxes in both epithelia via reductions in paracellular permeability. Experiments using DSI epithelia lacking Na+ uptake demonstrate that both NH3 and NH4+ diffusion occur, but are not large enough to account for normal rates of branchial ammonia excretion, suggesting that Na+-linked carrier-mediated processes are important for ammonia excretion in vivo. Future research goals are suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-83
Number of pages12
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 13 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Freshwater fish
  • Gill model
  • Ion transport
  • Mitochondria-rich cell
  • Pavement cell
  • Primary culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Biophysics


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