AAT Bioquest

What are the differences between adherent cell culture and suspension cell culture?

Posted March 20, 2023


Basis of differentiation 

Adherent cell culture

Suspension cell culture


Refers to cells that are grown in a single layer attached to a solid surface, such as a petri dish or flask supplemented with a culture medium

Refers to cells that are grown free-floating or suspended in a liquid medium either as single cells or as free-floating clusters


Suitable for most cell types, including primary cultures

Suitable only for non-adhesive cell lines and for 

cells adapted to suspension culture 

Special requirement

Requires a tissue culture treated vessel

Does not require a tissue culture treated vessel 


Does not require agitation during growth

Requires agitation during growth for adequate gas exchange

Anchorage dependency

Is anchorage dependent

Is anchorage independent


Is present 

Is absent


Cells can be dissociated enzymatically or mechanically

Cells do not require enzymatic or mechanical dissociation

Growth limitations

Growth is limited by surface area, which may limit product yields

Growth is limited by cell density in the medium

Passaging requirement 

Requires periodic passaging, but allows easy visual inspection under inverted microscope

Easier to passage, but requires daily cell counts and viability determination in order to follow growth patterns





Used for harvesting products continuously, cytology, and many different research applications

Used for batch harvesting, bulk protein production, and a wide range of research applications

Additional resources

Suspension culture in a T-flask with acoustic flow induced by ultrasonic irradiation

Assay development services

Screen Quest™ CHO-Gqi Chimera Cell line