Quantitative methods to characterize morphological properties of cell lines

Bobby L. Middlebrooks, University of Southern Mississippi


Descriptive terms are often used to characterize cells in culture, but the use of nonquantitative and poorly defined terms can lead to ambiguities when comparing data from different laboratories. Although recently there has been a good deal of interest in unambiguous identification of cell lines via their genetic markers, it is also critical to have definitive, quantitative metrics to describe cell phenotypic characteristics. Quantitative metrics of cell phenotype will aid the comparison of data from experiments performed at different times and in different laboratories where influences such as the age of the population and differences in culture conditions or protocols can potentially affect cellular metabolic state and gene expression in the absence of changes in the genetic profile. Here, we present examples of robust methodologies for quantitatively assessing characteristics of cell morphology and cellcell interactions, and of growth rates of cells within the population. We performed these analyses with endothelial cell lines derived from dolphin, bovine and human, and with a mouse fibroblast cell line. These metrics quantify some characteristics of these cells lines that clearly distinguish them from one another, and provide quantitative information on phenotypic changes in one of the cell lines over large number of passages. Published 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 28: 10691078, 2012