3D Oral and Cervical Tissue Models for Studying Papillomavirus Host-Pathogen Interactions

Robert Jackson, Jason D. Maarsingh, Melissa M. Herbst-Kralovetz, Koenraad Van Doorslaer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection occurs in differentiating epithelial tissues. Cancers caused by high-risk types (e.g., HPV16 and HPV18) typically occur at oropharyngeal and anogenital anatomical sites. The HPV life cycle is differentiation-dependent, requiring tissue culture methodology that is able to recapitulate the three-dimensional (3D) stratified epithelium. Here we report two distinct and complementary methods for growing differentiating epithelial tissues that mimic many critical morphological and biochemical aspects of in vivo tissue. The first approach involves growing primary human epithelial cells on top of a dermal equivalent consisting of collagen fibers and living fibroblast cells. When these cells are grown at the liquid-air interface, differentiation occurs and allows for epithelial stratification. The second approach uses a rotating wall vessel bioreactor. The low-fluid-shear microgravity environment inside the bioreactor allows the cells to use collagen-coated microbeads as a growth scaffold and self-assemble into 3D cellular aggregates. These approaches are applied to epithelial cells derived from HPV-positive and HPV-negative oral and cervical tissues. The second part of the article introduces potential downstream applications for these 3D tissue models. We describe methods that will allow readers to start successfully culturing 3D tissues from oral and cervical cells. These tissues have been used for microscopic visualization, scanning electron microscopy, and large omics-based studies to gain insights into epithelial biology, the HPV life cycle, and host-pathogen interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere129
JournalCurrent Protocols in Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • 3D culture
  • HPV
  • bioreactor
  • cervix
  • host-microbe interactions
  • oral
  • organotypic rafts
  • rotating wall vessel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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