Bread wheat gliadin cytotoxicity: A new three-dimensional cell model

E. Dolfini, L. Elli, S. Ferrero, P. Braidotti, L. Roncoroni, T. Dasdia, M. L. Falini, F. Forlani, Maria Teresa Bardella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In an attempt to clarify the role of gliadin toxicity in the pathogenesis of gluten intolerance (celiac disease), previous in vitro studies have been based on two-dimensional human cell cultures, However, the specific morphological and biochemical properties of in vivo tissue are better maintained in three-dimensional cell cultures (multicellular spheroids, MCS). The aim of this study was to develop a three-dimensional in vitro model to investigate the effects of gliadin on epithelial cells and broaden our understanding of the early tissue damage occurring in celiac disease. Methods: The three-dimensionally growing Lovo cell line was exposed to increasing concentrations of peptic-tryptic-digested bread wheat gliadin (from 125 to 1000 μg/mL) for 7 days in order to evaluate cell viability (colony-forming assay), and at the standard concentration of 500 μg/mL for 7 days in order to evaluate MCS diameters, volumes and cell morphology using light and electron microscopy. Results: In comparison with the controls, the cell viability of the gliadin-treated MCS was significantly reduced (20-80%), but there was no difference in size. Various degrees of cell damage (autophagic vacuoles and intra-cytoplasmic lipid-like droplets) were detected by both light and electron microscopy. Conclusion: This is the first study investigating the effects of gliadin on MCS. Lovo MCS seem to be responsive to gliadin exposure, thus confirming previous results obtained using two-dimensional cell cultures. The data suggest that three-dimensional cell cultures may be useful in broadening our understanding of some of the early effects of gliadin peptides on epithelial cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-141
Number of pages7
JournalScandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Celiac disease
  • Cell culture
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Multicellular spheroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry


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