U-87 MG cells

U-87 MG, the human primary glioblastoma cell line, is widely used in biological research. Particularly, these cells are employed in neuroscience and immuno-oncology fields.

This article will cover all the aspects of U-87 MG cells you need to know before working with it. Mainly, we will talk about the following:

  1. General characteristics and origin of U-87 MG cell line
  2. U-87 MG cells culturing information
  3. Advantages & disadvantages of U-87 MG cells
  4. Research applications featuring U-87 MG cells
  5. U-87 MG cell line: Research Publications
  6. Resources for U-87 MG cells: Protocols, Videos, and More

1.      General characteristics and origin of U-87 MG cell line

This section will go over the origin and general characteristics of the U87 cell line. You will learn What are U-87 MG cells? Where does U87 cell come from? What is the full form of U-87 MG? How big are U87 cells? and What is the morphology of U87 cell line?

  • The U87 cell line is a glioblastoma, astrocytoma cell line. It was established in 1966 at Uppsala University. The cells were obtained from a 44-year-old Caucasian male suffering from glioblastoma disease. This cell line is formally called U 87 MG, which stands for Uppsala 87 Malignant Glioma.
  • U 87 MG cells represent epithelial cell-like morphology.
  • The size of U 87 MG cells ranges between 12 to 14 µm in diameter.
  • This human glioblastoma cell line is hypodiploid and possesses a modal chromosome number of 44 in approximately 48% cell population. However, higher ploidies also exist in 5.9% cell population.

Medical 3D animation explaining the genesis of tumours from astrocytes.

2.      U-87 MG cells culturing information

Before working with U 87 MG cells, you should learn about the following key points for culturing these glioblastoma cells. Particularly, you should know: What is the population doubling time of U 87 MG cells? What media is used for culturing U87 cells? What is the seeding density of the U 87 MG cell line?

Key Points for Culturing U-87 MG Cells

Population Doubling Time:

U 87 MG cells have a population doubling time ranging from 18-38 hours.

Adherent or in Suspension:

U 87 MG is an adherent cell line. The cells possess an elongated shape and grow as monolayers.

Seeding Density:

The glioblastoma cell line U 87 MG is recommended to seed at a cell density of 1 x 104 cells/cm2. Adherent U87 cells are washed using 1 x PBS and incubated with Accutase solution. Afterwards, dissociated cells are centrifuged and recovered. The cells are carefully resuspended and added into new flasks containing growth medium.

Growth Medium:

U 87 MG cell line is cultured in EMEM  (Eagle's minimal essential medium) augmented with 1.0 g/L L-glucose, 2.0 mM L-glutamine, 2.2 g/L NaHCO3, 1% NEAA, 1 mM sodium pyruvate and 10% FBS solution. Media should be renewed every 2 to 3 days.

Growth Conditions:

U-87 MG cells require a humidified incubator with a 5% CO2 supply and at 37°C temperature for optimum growth.


The U87 cells are kept either in the vapour phase of liquid nitrogen or at below -150°C temperature to maintain maximum viability of glioblastoma cells.

Freezing Process and Medium:

CM-1 or CM-ACF freezing media are suitable for freezing U 87 MG cells. A slow freezing process is recommended as it prevents cells from any shock and protects cell viability.

Thawing Process:

Frozen U-87 MG cell line vials are thawed in a 37°C water bath. Cells are added with growth media, resuspended, and dispensed to cultured in new flasks. Contrary to this, U87 cells can be centrifuged to remove freezing media and then cultured.

Biosafety Level:

Biosafety level 1 is required for handling U 87 MG cell cultures.


U-87 MG cells under the microscope with 10x and 20x magnification.

3.      Advantages & disadvantages of U-87 MG cells

When we think of a cell line, the first thing that strikes our mind is: What are the advantages of using U-87 MG cells? and What are the disadvantages of U87 cells?


U 87 MG cell lines are broadly used in research. A few advantages associated with this cell line are:

Easy to grow

U 87 MG cells are easy to maintain in culture. They do not require fussy or complicated cell culturing requirements.


U-87 MG is a homogeneous cell line. Most cells in a population possess the same genetic makeup and thus share similar characteristics. Therefore, these cells are used for studying cell processes, drug screening, and testing.


This glioblastoma cell line is well characterized by growth characteristics, morphology, and gene expression. Thus, it is considered a valuable research tool.



The disadvantages of the U 87 MG cell line are:

Limited applicability

The U 87 MG is a glioblastoma cell line, so its applications are limited to studying glioblastomas and underlying molecular mechanisms. It might not be suitable for investigating other cancer types.

Microbial infection

Like other cell lines, the U87 cell line also has a high risk of microbial contamination. It can be avoided by maintaining standard aseptic culture conditions.


4.      Research applications featuring U-87 MG cells

U87MG glioblastoma cell line is extensively utilized in cancer studies, particularly in glioblastoma research. Some of the research applications of U 87 MG cells are:

  • Cancer biology research: The U87 cell line is used to study cancer growth and development, underlying molecular mechanisms, signalling pathways, and tumour microenvironment. A study published in 2020 used a glioblastoma in vitro model, U-87 MG cell line, to investigate the BMAL1 (Basic Helix-Loop-Helix ARNT Like 1) gene as a therapeutic target. The findings showed that the BMAL1 gene inhibits glioblastoma cell proliferation, migration, and invasion by suppressing cyclin B1, metalloproteinase-9, and phospho-AKT gene expression [1]. Another research carried out in 2019 utilized the U87cell line and investigated that downregulated Lipopolysaccharide-induced tumour necrosis factor-alpha factor (LITAF) transcription factor expression can enhance the radiosensitivity of glioma cells through FOXO-1 pathway upregulation. LITAF is also known as p53-induced gene 7 (PIG7) [2].
  • Drug discovery and development: U-87 MG cells can be used for drug screening and testing purposes, allowing researchers to identify new potential anticancer drugs and assess their efficacy and toxicity. As research used U 87 MG glioblastoma cell line to evaluate the anticancer and antioxidant potential of antioxidant and anticancer activities of Inula helenium (L.) extract [3]. Similarly, another publication mentioned using the U87 cell line to test the cytotoxic and apoptotic effect of plant extracts [4]. Furthermore, research published in 2018, studied the cytotoxic effect of sesquiterpene alkaloids extracted from Nuphar plants on sensitive and drug-resistant U 87 MG cell lines [5].

5.      U-87 MG cell line: Research Publications

Here are some prominent research publications featuring U 87 MG cell line.

Hypoxia enhances the migration and invasion of human glioblastoma U87 cells through PI3K/Akt/mTOR/HIF-1α pathway

This article published in Neuroreport 2018 proposed that hypoxia could increase human glioblastoma cells migration and invasion by regulating the PI3K/Akt/mTOR/HIF-1α signaling pathway.

Eriodictyol Inhibits Proliferation, Metastasis and Induces Apoptosis of Glioma Cells via PI3K/Akt/NF-κB Signaling Pathway

This study is published in the Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2020. The research findings state that a flavonoid, Eriodictyol, exerts anticancer effects on the U87 cell line and suppresses cell proliferation and metastasis. The compound mediates its antitumor properties by modulating PI3K/Akt/NF-κB pathway.

Xihuang pill induces apoptosis of human glioblastoma U-87 MG cells via targeting ROS-mediated Akt/mTOR/FOXO1 pathway

This research in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2018) suggests that a Chinese herbal formula called Xihuang pill can induce apoptosis in U87 cells by targeting ROS-activated Akt/mTOR/FOXO1 cascade.

LITAF enhances radiosensitivity of human glioma cells via the FoxO1 pathway

This research paper was published in the Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology journal in 2019. The study proposed that a transcription factor, LITAF, downregulates and enhances the radiosensitivity of glioma cells by regulating the FOXO-1 signalling pathway.

Preparation of curcumin-loaded PLGA nanoparticles and investigation of its cytotoxicity effects on human glioblastoma U87MG cells

This article was published in Biointerface Research in Applied Chemistry (2019). The researchers used U 87 MG cells to investigate the cytotoxic effect of curcumin-loaded PLGA nanoparticles.

6.      Resources for U-87 MG cells: Protocols, Videos, and More

U87MG glioblastoma cell line is used in many cancer research laboratories. A few resources featuring this cell line are:

The resource for the cell culture protocol of U87 cells is listed below:

  • U87 MG cells: This link contains basic information about U 87 MG cell line. It includes brief cell splitting, freezing, and cell thawing protocols.


  1. Gwon, D.H., et al., BMAL1 Suppresses Proliferation, Migration, and Invasion of U87MG Cells by Downregulating Cyclin B1, Phospho-AKT, and Metalloproteinase-9. Int J Mol Sci, 2020. 21(7).
  2. Huang, C., et al., LITAF Enhances Radiosensitivity of Human Glioma Cells via the FoxO1 Pathway. Cell Mol Neurobiol, 2019. 39(6): p. 871-882.
  3. Koc, K., et al., antioxidant and anticancer activities of extract of Inula helenium (L.) in human U-87 MG glioblastoma cell line. J Cancer Res Ther, 2018. 14(3): p. 658-661.
  4. Rezadoost, M.H., H.H. Kumleh, and A. Ghasempour, Cytotoxicity and apoptosis induction in breast cancer, skin cancer and glioblastoma cells by plant extracts. Mol Biol Rep, 2019. 46(5): p. 5131-5142.
  5. Fukaya, M., et al., Cytotoxicity of sesquiterpene alkaloids from Nuphar plants toward sensitive and drug-resistant cell lines. Food Funct, 2018. 9(12): p. 6279-6286.