The Nanoculture plate (NCP) is a recently developed plate which essentially consists of a textured surface with specific characteristics that induce spheroid formation: microfabrications with a micro-square pattern on the culture surface. The NCP can be used to generate uniform adhesive spheroids of cancer cell lines using conventional techniques without the need of any animal compounds. In this study, we assessed the performance of human hepatoma cell line HepG2 cells cultured with an NCP to evaluate the effects of the NCP on their hepatocyte-specific functions. The NCP facilitated the formation of three-dimensional (3D) HepG2 cell architecture. HepG2 cells cultured with an NCP exhibited enhanced mRNA expression levels of albumin and cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes compared to those cultured with a two-dimensional (2D) conventional plate. The expression levels of two specific liver-enriched transcription factors, hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (HNF4α) and CCAAT/enhancer binding protein α (C/EBPα), were higher in HepG2 cells grown with the NCP than those in HepG2 cells grown with conventional plates before albumin and CYP enzymes expression levels were increased. The inducibility of CYP1A2 and CYP3A4 mRNA following exposure to inducers in HepG2 cells cultured with an NCP was comparable to that in HepG2 cells cultured with conventional plates, while the expression levels of CYP1A2 and CYP3A4 mRNA following exposure to inducers were higher when using an NCP than when using conventional plates. These results suggest that the use of an NCP enhances the hepatocyte-specific functions of HepG2 cells, such as drug-metabolizing enzyme expression, making the NCP/HepG2 system a useful tool for evaluating drug metabolism in vitro.
2011 The Japanese Society of Toxicology