Investigation of aspects of reactive gliosis in human astrocytoma cell lines
: application for toxicity assessment

  • Lindsay J. Holden

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The process of astrogliosis, or reactive gliosis, is a typical response of astrocytes to a wide range of physical and chemical injuries. The up-regulation of the astrocyte specific glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) is a hallmark of reactive gliosis and is widely used as a marker to identify the response.
In order to develop a reliable, sensitive and high throughput astrocyte toxicity assay that is more relevant to the human response than existing animal cell based models, the U251-MG, U373-MG and CCF-STTG 1 human astrocytoma cell lines were investigated for their ability to exhibit reactive-like changes following exposure to ethanol, chloroquine diphosphate, trimethyltin chloride and acrylamide.
Cytotoxicity analysis showed that the astrocytic cells were generally more resistant to the cytotoxic effects of the agents than the SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells. Retinoic acid induced differentiation of the SH-SY5Y line was also seen to confer some degree of resistance to toxicant exposure, particularly in the case of ethanol.
Using a cell based ELISA for GFAP together with concurrent assays for metabolic activity and cell number, each of the three cell lines responded to toxicant exposure by an increase in GFAP immunoreactivity (GFAP-IR), or by increased metabolic activity. Ethanol, chloroquine diphosphate, trimethyltin chloride and bacterial lipopolysaccharide all induced either GFAP or MTT increases depending upon the cell line, dose and exposure time. Preliminary investigations of additional aspects of astrocytic injury indicated that IL-6, but not TNF-α. or nitric oxide, is released following exposure to each of the compounds, with the exception of acrylamide.
It is clear that these human astrocytoma cell lines are capable of responding to toxicant exposure in a manner typical of reactive gliosis and are therefore a valuable cellular model in the assessment of in vitro neurotoxicity.
Date of AwardOct 2007
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael Coleman (Supervisor)


  • glial fibrillary acidic protein
  • astrcyte
  • astrogliosis
  • toxicant

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