Epithelial cancer cells exhibit different electrical properties when cultured in 2D and 3D environments

Hayley J. Mulhall, Michael P. Hughes, Batool Kazmi, Mark P. Lewis, Fatima H. Labeed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Background Many drug development and toxicology studies are performed using cells grown in monolayers in well-plates and flasks, despite the fact that these are widely held to be different to cells found in the native environment. 3D, tissue engineered, organotypical tissue culture systems have been developed to be more representative of the native tissue environment than standard monolayer cultures. Whilst the biochemical differences between cells grown in 2D and 3D culture have been explored, the changes on the electrophysiological properties of the cells have not. Methods We compared the electrophysiological properties of primary normal oral keratinocytes (nOK) and cancerous abnormal oral keratinocytes (aOK), cultured in standard monolayer and reconstituted 3D organotypical tissue cultures. The electrophysiological properties of populations of the cells were analysed using dielectrophoresis. The intracellular conductivity of aOK was significantly increased when grown in organotypical cultures compared to counterpart cells grown in monolayer cultures. Results 3D cultured aOK showed almost identical intracellular conductivity to nOK also grown in organotypical cultures, but significantly different to aOK grown in monolayers. The effective membrane capacitance of aOK grown in 3D was found to be significantly higher than nOK, but there was no significant difference between the electrophysiological properties of nOK grown in 2D and 3D cultures. General significance This work suggests that factors such as cell shape and cytoplasmic trafficking between cells play an important role in their electrophysiology, and highlights the need to use in vitro models more representative of native tissue when studying cell electrophysiological properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5136-5141
Number of pages6
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Dielectric Screening
  • Dielectrophoresis
  • Electrophysiological
  • Organotypic
  • OSCC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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