Jesper J. Hedberg, Annette Hansson, Jan A. Nilsson, Jan-Olov Höög and Roland C. Grafström
The human oral epithelium is a target for damage from the inhalation of formaldehyde. However, most experimental studies on this chemical have relied on laboratory animals that are obligatory nose breathers, including rats and mice. Therefore, in vitro model systems that mimic the structure of the human oral epithelium and which retain normal tissue specific metabolic competence are desirable. Based on the established role of alcohol dehydrogenase 3 (ADH3), also known as glutathione-dependent formaldehyde dehydrogenase, as the primary enzyme catalysing the detoxification of formaldehyde, the aim of this study was to investigate the expression of ADH3 in organotypic epithelia regenerated with normal (NOK), immortalised (SVpgC2a) and malignant (SqCC/Y1) human oral keratinocytes. Organotypic epithelia, usually consisting of 5–10 cell layers, were produced at the air–liquid interface of collagen gels containing human oral fibroblasts, after culture for 10 days in a standardised serum-free medium. Immunochemical staining demonstrated uniform expression of ADH3 in these organotypic epithelia, as well as in the epithelial cells of oral tissue. The specificity of the ADH3 antiserum was ascertained from the complete neutralisation of the immunochemical reaction with purified ADH3 protein. Assessment of the staining intensities indicated that the expression levels were similar among the regenerated epithelia. Furthermore, the regenerated epithelia showed similar ADH3 expression to the epithelium in oral tissue. Therefore, a tissue-like expression pattern for ADH3 can be generated from the culture of various oral keratinocyte lines in an organotypic state. Similar expression levels among the various cell lines indicate the preservation of ADH3 during malignant transformation, and therefore that NOK, SVpgC2a and SqCC/Y1 represent functional models for in vitro studies of formaldehyde metabolism in human oral mucosa.
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