Basement membrane products like Matrigel® and Geltrex™ act as a substrate or physical support for cultured cells helping to create more in vivo-like extracellular matrices. Basement membranes are found ubiquitously in the body. They play a role in a many key cellular functions including proliferation, adhesion, migration, differentiation, and cell polarization as well as various biological processes including development and tissue maintenance. Thus researching the basement membrane gives us insights into disease processes like tumor growth and metastasis.

Here, we’ll compare two models of the basement membrane: Corning Life Sciences’ Matrigel and ThermoFisher Scientific’s Geltrex. We’ll look first at their similarities, followed by their differences. Next, we’ll look at all the formulations each is available in and then conclude with why you might pick one over the other.

JARGON ALERT!

LDEV-free = free of viruses, including lactose dehydrogenase elevating virus or LDEV.

GFR = growth factor reduced.

hESC-qualified = doesn’t cause human embryonic stem cell differentiation.

Phenol red = phenol red tracks the acidity/alkalinity of your cells. It commonly found in cell media.

Similarities

Feature Matrigel + Geltrex
What are they?: Basement matrices used in cell culture assays.
Source: Secreted extracellular matrix proteins, purified from murine Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm (EHS) tumor cells.
Composition: Includes laminin, collagen IV, heparin sulfate proteoglycans, and entactin/nidogen.
Uses: Creation of 3D cell environments to study cell-cell interactions or complex tissue-like structures for various applications. Can also be used for 2D culture.
LDEV-free Yes. Screened for dozens of common viruses.
Growth factors: Reduced growth factor versions available.
Cell types they work for: List for each is extensive so check your individual cell type works with each manufacturer and ask them to recommend a formula.
hESC-qualified: For some formulations.

mTeSR1-compatible:

Pro tip! mTeSR1 is pronounced “em-teaser one”.

Yes.Note: In the case of Getrex, this isn’t clear from the ThermoFisher website but I spoke to them on the phone and they confirmed that Geltrex is indeed mTeSR1-compatible

Differences

Feature Matrigel Geltrex
Shelf Life: 24 months. 18 months.
Protein Concentration Range: 8-21 mg/mL. 12–18 mg/mL.
Number of citations in journal publications: Over 9700 dating back to 1987. 13 as of March 2016 dating back to 2010.

Please note: prices given are is USD as of March 2016 and are intended as a guide. They do not include shipping and handling fees or offers. Values given are is USD as of March 2016.

Matrigel in Detail

Matrigel sells 11 matrigel products but if you take away the different sizes and separate out all the sub-formulations, you’re left with 8:

  1. Standard formulation: 5 ml is $160.15, 10 ml is $248.63, 50 ml is $1,071.74
  2. Standard formulation + phenol red free: 10 ml is $302.37
  3. High concentration (see Matrigel table below): 10 ml is $403.16
  4. High concentration + phenol red free: 10 ml is $432.29
  5. High concentration + GFR: 10 ml is $432.29
  6. GFR: 5 ml is $185.55, 10 ml is $299.02
  7. GFR + phenol red free: 10 ml is $318.05
  8. hESC qualified: 5 ml is $216.23

To make this more digestible, here is a breakdown of the individual features:

Matrigel
(Source)
How is it different? When to use it?
Standard Formulation Broadest range of applications. Culture of polarized cells.
High Concentration Higher protein concentration formula to increase matrix stiffness and scaffold integrity. In vivo cell delivery, improved cell engraftment and augmentation of solid tumor formation.
GFR Far lower concentration of growth factors present. When a more defined basement membrane is needed.
Phenol Red-Free No phenol red added. Assays that require color detection (e.g., colorimetric, fluorescence).
hESC-qualified + mTeSR1 compatibility See jargon table above. Human embryonic and induced pluripotent feeder-free stem cell culture

Geltrex in Detail

Your Geltrex options from ThermoFisher’s site are a little simpler (in part because they have fewer options) but why you’d pick one over the other is not so I spoke to ThermoFisher to clarify this and added this info to the table below:

Geltrex
(Source)
How is it different? When to use it? Price
Geltrex™ LDEV-Free Reduced Growth Factor Basement Membrane Matrix Reduced growth factor formula. Works for any 3D cell culture EXCEPT stem cells. Can be bought separately or as part of an angiogenesis kit. If you’d like to use it for 2D cell culture, just dilute it. 1ml is $41.70
5 ml is $187
Geltrex™ LDEV-Free hESC-qualified Reduced Growth Factor Basement Membrane Matrix Suitable for stem cell culture. Work for any 3D cell culture but is ideally suited for stem cells 3D and is more expensive so for non-stem cell cultures use the above option instead. If you’d like to use it for 2D cell culture, just dilute it. 1ml is $46.80
5 ml is $211
Geltrex® hESC-qualified Ready-To-Use Reduced Growth Factor Basement Membrane Matrix Diluted version of hESC-qualified formula. 2D culture only as it has been pre-diluted and does not form a gel. Despite the name not indicating this, ThermoFisher assured me it is LDEV-free. 50 ml is $64.65

Note: phenol red isn’t present is any Geltrex formulation so you’ll need to add it if you’d like it there.

Bottom Line

These products are very similar. Matrigel has been around for longer, has featured extensively in publications, and has more formulas and sizes available. One downside with Matrigel is they force you to buy in more bulk than Geltrex. Comparing prices, they come out around the same once you factor in the sizes and protein concentrations. Let’s compare the two formulas to illustrate this:

GFR + phenol red free formula hESC-qualified formula
Matrigel: 10 ml is $318.05
Protein concentration is 12-18mg/ml
Matrigel: 5 ml is $216.23
Protein concentration: 8-12 mg/mL
Geltrex: 1 ml is $41.70, 5 ml is $187
Protein concentration is 8-12 mg/ml
Geltrex: 1 ml is $46.80, 5 ml is $211
Protein Concentration is 15 mg/ml
Conclusion: Matrigel appears cheaper but this is because it usually comes in a lower concentration. Conclusion: Geltrex is cheaper here but if you like phenol red to be present, you’ll have to buy it separately so they may actually be comparable.

In short, it comes down to what your individual needs are in terms of how much you’ll use, what specifications you require and individual preference.

Have you tried both or either? Did you prefer one over the other?


Article by Olwen Reina. Contact Olwen at olwen@tempobioscience.com.