Insect Cell Culture


Insect cell cultures are widely used in studies on insect cell physiology, developmental biology and microbial pathology. In particular, insect cell culture is an indispensable tool for the study of insect viruses. The first continuously growing insect cell cultures were established from lepidopteran insects around 1960. Since then, more than 600 insect cell lines have been described from over 100 insect species, the majority from lepidopteran (moths) and dipteran (flies and mosquitoes) insects. Among these, the Drosophila S2, the Spodoptera frugiperda Sf9 and Trichoplusia ni High Five cell lines are used most widely. The latter two are susceptible to the baculovirus Autographa californica multiple capsid nucleopolyhedrovirus and are used for the expression of foreign genes, for example, for the production of subunit vaccines, to make proteins for functional analyses or crystallography and to produce gene delivery vectors for mammalian cells.

Key Concepts:

  • Insect cell cultures are a crucial tool in studying the pathology of insect viruses and human viruses vectored by insects.

  • Insect cells can be grown serum free, at high density and in suspension cultures, allowing the application of bioreactors.

  • Insect cell cultures are indispensable for the baculovirus expression system.

  • Insect cells are important for the production of subunit vaccines.

  • Insect cells are increasingly important to produce human vaccines and gene delivery vectors.

Keywords: insect cells; bioreactors; baculoviruses; recombinant proteins; gene delivery vectors

Figure 1.

Number of invertebrate cell lines established per order in 10‐year periods. The total number of cell lines per order is indicated above the bars.

Figure 2.

Cumulative number of invertebrate cell lines established between 1970 and May 2010.

Figure 3.

Examples of lepidopteran cell morphologies. (a) The spherical cell line Sf9 derived from the armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda and (b) a fibroblast‐like cell line (WU‐Cc‐E1) from the tomato looper Chrysodeixis chalcites. Photographs by Els Roode and Fang Xu.



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Further Reading

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Vlak JM, De Gooijer CD, Tramper J and Miltenburger HG (eds) (1997) Insect Cell Cultures: Fundamental and Applied Aspects. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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How to Cite close
van Oers, Monique M, and Lynn, Dwight E(Dec 2010) Insect Cell Culture. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002574.pub2]