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Am J Pathol. 1998 Dec;153(6):1913-21.

Spontaneous neoplastic transformation of WB-F344 rat liver epithelial cells.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill 27599-7525, USA.


Several studies have shown that cultured rat liver epithelial cells transform spontaneously after chronic maintenance in a confluent state in vitro. In the present study, multiple independent lineages of low-passage WB-F344 rat liver epithelial stem-like cells were initiated and subjected in parallel to selection for spontaneous transformation to determine whether spontaneous acquisition of tumorigenicity was the result of events (genetic or epigenetic) that occurred independently and stochastically, or reflected the expression of a pre-existing alteration within the parental WB-F344 cell line. Temporal analysis of the spontaneous acquisition of tumorigenicity by WB-F344 cells demonstrated lineage-specific differences in the time of first expression of the tumorigenic phenotype, frequencies and latencies of tumor formation, and tumor differentiations. Although spontaneously transformed WB-F344 cells produced diverse tumor types (including hepatocellular carcinomas, cholangiocarcinomas, hepatoblastomas, and osteogenic sarcomas), individual lineages yielded tumors with consistent and specific patterns of differentiation. These results provide substantial evidence that the stochastic accumulation of independent transforming events during the selection regimen in vitro were responsible for spontaneous neoplastic transformation of WB-F344 cells. Furthermore, cell lineage commitment to a specific differentiation program was stable with time in culture and with site of transplantation. This is the first report of a cohort of related, but independent, rat liver epithelial cell lines that collectively produce a spectrum of tumor types but individually reproduce a specific tumor type. These cell lines will provide valuable reagents for investigation of the molecular mechanisms involved in the differentiation of hepatic stem-like cells and for examination of potential causal relationships in spontaneously transformed rat liver epithelial cell lines between molecular/cellular alterations and the ability to produce tumors in syngeneic animals.

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