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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Aug; 85(16): 5951–5955.
PMCID: PMC281883

Characterization of human tracheal epithelial cells transformed by an origin-defective simian virus 40.


To facilitate understanding of the mechanisms underlying pulmonary diseases, including lung cancer and cystic fibrosis, we have transformed and characterized cultures of human tracheal epithelial cells. Cells were transfected by calcium phosphate precipitation with a plasmid containing a replication-defective simian virus 40 (SV40) genome. Colonies of cells with enhanced growth potential were isolated and analyzed for transformation- and epithelial-specific characteristics. Precrisis cells were observed to express the SV40 large tumor antigen, produce cytokeratins, have microvilli, and form tight junctions. After crisis, cells continued to express the SV40 large tumor antigen as well as epithelial-specific cytokeratins and to display the apical membrane microvilli. Apical membrane Cl channels were opened in postcrisis cells exposed to 50 microM forskolin. These channels showed electrical properties similar to those observed in primary cultures. The postcrisis cells have been in culture for greater than 250 generations and are potentially "immortal." In addition to providing a useful in vitro model for the study of ion transport by human airway epithelial cells, the cells can be used to examine stages of neoplastic progression.

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