Metabolic cooperation in cell culture: Studies of the mechanisms of cell interaction

R. P. Cox, M. R. Krauss, M. E. Balis, J. Dancis

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27 Scopus citations


Metabolic cooperation is a form of cell communication in which the mutant phenotype of enzyme deficient cells, as determined by incorporation of labeled substrates, is corrected in culture by contact with normal cells. Previous studies showed that metabolic cooperation between normal and hypoxanthine phosphoribosyl transferase deficient cells (HPRT) was the result of transfer of product of the enzyme, nucleotide or nucleotide derivative, from normal to mutant cells rather than transfer of enzyme or informational macromolecules leading to the synthesis of the enzyme. In the present study the nature and mechanisms involved in these cell interactions were investigated. Effective communication is observed within one hour of cell contact. Modifications of the extracellular environment including changes in osmolarity, concentration of sodium and divalent ions failed to interfere significantly with transfer. Changes of cell shape induced by cyclic nucleotides, hormones and urea also did not affect communication. Cytochalasin B which dissociates microfilaments and binds to cell membranes reduced metabolic cooperation while colcemide which dissociates microtubules had little effect. Enzymatic oxidation and iodination of cell surface structures abolished metabolic cooperation. The subcellular localization of label in donor cells is important in determining efficiency of transfer. Metabolic cooperation is efficient when radioactive label is primarily located in the nucleus and inefficient if the label is cytoplasmic. Cell lines previously classified as “non‐communicating” because they lack gap junctions, ionic coupling and metabolic cooperation were shown in the present study to communicate when incubated with labeled substrates for 20 hours rather than 3. Cell communication is a more generalized phenomenon among cells in contact than previously appreciated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-252
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of cellular physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1974

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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