The choice of phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate differentiation protocol influences the response of THP-1 macrophages to a pro-inflammatory stimulus

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Journal Article
Journal of Immunological Methods, 2016, 430 pp. 64 - 70
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© 2016. The human monocytic cell line, THP-1, is the most widely used model for primary human monocytes/macrophages. This is because, following differentiation using phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), THP-1 cells acquire a macrophage-like phenotype, which mimics, in many respects, primary human macrophages. Despite the widespread use of THP-1 cells in studies elucidating macrophage responses to inflammatory stimuli, as well as the development and screening of potential therapeutics, there is currently no standardised protocol for the reliable differentiation of THP-1 monocytes to a macrophage phenotype using PMA. Consequently, reports using THP-1 cells have demonstrated significant phenotypic and functional differences between resultant THP-1 macrophage populations, which are largely attributable to the varying PMA differentiation methods used. Thus, to guarantee consistency and reproducibility between studies, and to ensure the relevance of THP-1 cells as an appropriate model for primary human macrophages, it is crucial to develop a standardised protocol for the differentiation of THP-1 macrophages. Accordingly, we compared the function and phenotype of THP-1 macrophages generated using the range of published PMA differentiation protocols, specifically in response to the pro-inflammatory stimulus, lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Our results demonstrated that the function of the resultant THP-1 macrophage populations, as determined by tumour necrosis factor (TNF) secretion in response to LPS stimulation, varied significantly, and was dependent upon the concentration of PMA used to stimulate the differentiation of monocytes, and the period of rest following PMA exposure. These data indicate that exposure of monocytic THP-1 cells to 25 nM PMA over 48 h, followed by a recovery period of 24 h in culture in the absence of PMA, was the optimal protocol for the differentiation of THP-1 cells.
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