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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1985 Apr; 82(8): 2394–2398.
PMCID: PMC397564

Induction of transformation and continuous cell lines from normal human mammary epithelial cells after exposure to benzo[a]pyrene.


Rapidly growing primary cultures of normal human mammary epithelial cells (HMEC) were exposed to 1 microgram of benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) per ml for two or three 24-hr periods. The B[a]P-treated populations consistently contained cells displaying a longer period of active growth in culture compared to the untreated control cells. Widespread heterogeneity in morphology and growth patterns was evidenced in these "extended life" (EL) cultures, with multiple sequential changes in these parameters occurring during the course of their life in culture. Two apparently immortal continuous cell lines have thus far emerged from these EL cultures. These lines have been characterized to be of human mammary epithelial origin and derived from the originally treated HMEC specimen. The continuous lines do not appear to be malignantly transformed as they do not cause tumor formation in nude mice and show little or no anchorage-independent growth. Nonetheless, they have acquired several properties characteristic of tumor-derived HMEC, which distinguish them from their normal progenitors. These cell lines, as well as the EL strains, may provide useful substrates for studies to determine what agents can induce further transforming events. Additionally, analysis of the multiple steps occurring in the El cultures, as well as in the emergence of the continuous cell lines, could potentially elucidate the processes occurring during human epithelial cell carcinogenesis and escape from senescence.

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