Karyotypic changes associated with spontaneous acquisition and loss of tumorigenicity in a human transformed bronchial epithelial cell line: Evidence for in vivo selection of transformed clones

Joan H. Schiller, Gerard Bittner, Shi Q I Wu, Lorraine Meisner

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In this study, we describe the karyotypic changes associated with the spontaneous acquisition of tumorigenicity in an immortalized tumor bronchial cell line. Neoplastic transformation of the NL20 human bronchial epithelial cell line occurred after 3 yr in culture, and was associated with loss of chromosome 18 together with acquisition of multiple copies of 9q21.2 → 34. The nontumorigenic NL20 cell line bad been established by transfection of human bronchial epithelial cells with the SV40 T antigen, and had retained a relatively stable karyotype after the first 32 passages in vitro. However, when cells from p184 were inoculated into nude mice, a transplantable tumor was obtained that was derived from a minor clone present in this otherwise stable line. Subsequent passaging of the NL20 cells in vitro did not yield further tumors, and the minor clone from which the tumorigenic NL20T cell line derived was no longer evident in NL20 cells by Passage 205. Furthermore, the original tumorigenic NL20T cells lost the neoplastic phenotype after 25 passages in vitro and reverted to the nontumorigenic karyotype observed at p189. In contrast to the loss of the tumorigenic phenotype and karyotype, which occurred with in vitro passaging of the original tumor, when the NL20T cells were passaged in other nude mice, they continued to give rise to tumors with sevenfold amplifications of 9q sequences and loss of chromosome 18, and cells from the secondary tumors (NL20T-A cells) have maintained a stable karyotype and remain tumorigenic even after 64 passages in vitro. A mixture of 10% tumorigenic NL20T-A and 90% nontumorigenic NL20 cells formed tumors in athymic nude mice when cultured in vitro on fibronectin, but not on plastic; cytogenetic analysis demonstrated that the tumors and cell cultures were composed of tumorigenic NL20T-A cells, whereas cytogenetic analysis of cells cultured on plastic were identical to the nontumorigenic NL20 cells. These data support the hypothesis that neoplastic transformation in our original cell line arose from in vive selection of a small mutant clone, which had arisen in culture and was subsequently selected in vive but was lost with in vitro culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-289
Number of pages7
JournalIn Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Animal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998



  • Chromosomes
  • Genetics
  • Karyotype
  • Transformation
  • Tumorigenicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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