Isolation and Quantitative Evaluation of Brush Cells from Mouse Tracheas

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


Tracheal brush cells are cholinergic chemosensory epithelial cells poised to transmit signals from the airway lumen to the immune and nervous systems. They are part of a family of chemosensory epithelial cells which include tuft cells in the intestinal mucosa, brush cells in the trachea, and solitary chemosensory and microvillous cells in the nasal mucosa. Chemosensory cells in different epithelial compartments share key intracellular markers and a core transcriptional signature, but also display significant transcriptional heterogeneity, likely reflective of the local tissue environment. Isolation of tracheal brush cells from single cell suspensions is required to define the function of these rare epithelial cells in detail, but their isolation is challenging, potentially due to the close interaction between tracheal brush cells and nerve endings or due to airway-specific composition of tight and adherens junctions. Here, we describe a procedure for isolation of brush cells from mouse tracheal epithelium. The method is based on an initial separation of tracheal epithelium from the submucosa, allowing for a subsequent shorter incubation of the epithelial sheet with papain. This procedure offers a rapid and convenient solution for flow cytometric sorting and functional analysis of viable tracheal brush cells.