A novel method for live imaging of human airway cilia using wheat germ agglutinin

Ryosuke Nakamura, Tatsuya Katsuno, Yo Kishimoto, Shinji Kaba, Masayoshi Yoshimatsu, Morimasa Kitamura, Atsushi Suehiro, Nao Hiwatashi, Masaru Yamashita, Ichiro Tateya, Koichi Omori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Multiciliated epithelial cells in the airway are essential for mucociliary clearance. Their function relies on coordinated, metachronal and directional ciliary beating, appropriate mucus secretion and airway surface hydration. However, current conventional methods for observing human airway ciliary movement require ciliated cells to be detached from airway tissues. Determining the directionality of cilia is difficult. We developed a novel method to stain airway epithelial cilia to observe their movement without releasing ciliated cells. Human tracheae were obtained from patients (n = 13) who underwent laryngectomies to treat malignancies or swallowing disorders. The tracheae were treated with fluorescently labeled wheat germ agglutinin, which interacts with the acidic mucopolysaccharides present on the cilia. Epithelial surfaces were observed using an epi-fluorescence microscope equipped with a water-immersion objective lens and a high-speed camera. Ciliary movement was observable at 125 fps (13/13 samples). Ciliated cells in close proximity mostly exhibited well-coordinated ciliary beats with similar directionalities. These findings indicated that wheat germ agglutinin renders ciliary beats visible, which is valuable for observing human airway ciliary movements in situ.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14417
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01-12-2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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