mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs)

Tom Anderson via (by ucgatan from
Sat Mar 10 14:06:25 EST 2007

On Sat, 10 Mar 2007, Kyle Legate wrote:

> Tom Anderson wrote:
> > On Fri, 9 Mar 2007, Kyle Legate wrote:
> >
> >> Antonio wrote:
> >>
> >>> Why are MEF usually generated from 14.5 day old embryos?
> >>
> >> Because by that time the organs have coalesced enough that they can
> >> be easily scooped from the body cavity and discarded, and the carcass
> >> is still soft enough to be easily macerated.
> >
> > Excuse the silly question, but what tissue(s) are MEFs derived from, then?
> They are derived from the mesenchyme surrounding the organs, but not the
> organs themselves. E14.5 embryos are decapitated and the heart, lungs
> and abdomenal organs are scooped out and what is left is the outer
> casing, if you will. There is a lot of mesenchyme surrounding the
> somites and I believe that this is the source of most fibroblasts
> obtained by this method.

Okay, thanks. What about things like epithelia and peripheral neurons? Is
there a contaminating population of these cells in amongst the
fibroblasts, or do they dedifferentiate into fibroblasts, or die, or fail
to proliferate or something?

I'm interested in this because i work with chick embryo fibroblasts, which
i make from heart muscle; the muscle cells dedifferentiate into something
that's presumably quite like the mesenchyme cells that MEFs are derived
from. This ought to be a rather homogenous population, but there are often
epithelial-like cells in there too, and at least one recorded instance of
something macrophagey (in an old paper by Keith Burridge - he observed
podosomes in 1983 but had no idea what they were or what cell type they
were in!). I've always thought the situation must be even worse with MEFs,
since they're made from mashed-up whole embryos, rather than a single
tissue, but perhaps not.


Tom Anderson, MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, UCL, London WC1E 6BT
(t) +44 (20) 76797264   (f) +44 (20) 76797805   (e) thomas.anderson from

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