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Am J Pathol. 2000 Mar;156(3):1085-91.

Surface antigen expression and complement susceptibility of differentiated neuroblastoma clones.

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Department of Pathology and Kaplan Comprehensive Cancer Center, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York 10016, USA.


Human neuroblastoma cell lines typically consist of heterogenous subpopulations of cells that are morphologically and biochemically distinct. The cell types are characterized as neuroblastic (N-type), substrate-adherent Schwann-like (S-type), or intermediate (I). These cell types can undergo spontaneous or induced transdifferentiation in vitro. We investigated the complement sensitivity of different neuroblastoma cell lines and of matched sets of cloned N- and S-type neuroblastoma cell lines. Human neuroblastoma cell lines that consisted predominantly of a neuroblastic phenotype were shown to be significantly more susceptible to human complement-mediated lysis than cell lines of other cancer types. Complement sensitivity of neuroblastoma cell lines was correlated with low levels of CD59, decay-accelerating factor, and membrane cofactor protein expression. We found that cloned S-type neuroblastoma cells were much more resistant to complement-mediated lysis than cloned N-type cells. The increased complement resistance of S-type cells was shown to be due to increased expression of membrane-bound complement inhibitors. CD59 was the single most important protein in providing S-type cells with protection from complement lysis. S-type cells were also found to express lower levels of GD2, a target antigen for a complement activating monoclonal antibody currently in clinical trials for neuroblastoma immunotherapy. The ability of S-type cells to evade complement, and the ability of S-type cells to differentiate into the more tumorigenic N-type cells, may represent a mechanism of tumor survival and regrowth, a phenomenon often observed with this cancer.

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