Fetal bovine serum and other sera used in tissue culture increase epithelial permeability

Kathleen H. Mortell, Alan D. Marmorstein, Eva B. Cramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Fetal bovine serum (FBS) or heat-inactivated FBS (56° C for 30 min, HFBS) caused a dose-dependent decrease in the transepithelial electrical resistance of an epithelial monolayer (MDCK). A saturating concentration of HFBS (30%) caused an average fall of 25 ± 2% within 60 min. Upon removal of HFBS, the resistance returned to its starting value within 1 h. Flux studies with [3H]mannitol demonstrate that the fall in resistance is due to an increased permeability of the tight junctions. Thirty percent heat inactivated sera from goat, newborn calf, calf, bovine, and horse caused falls ranging from 26 to 47%. In contrast with the basolateral preference of human and bovine adult sera, fetal bovine and newborn calf sera elicit this response primarily by interacting with the apical surface of the epithelium. HFBS-treated monolayers show a significant increase in the condensation of F-actin at points where ≥3 cells meet. These results demonstrate that FBS and other sera used as nutritional supplements can increase the permeability of the tight junctions of cultured epithelial cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-238
Number of pages4
JournalIn Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology - Animal: Journal of the Society for In Vitro Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1993


  • MDCK cells
  • actin
  • epithelial permeability factor
  • tight junctions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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