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Environ Health Perspect. 1989 Mar;80:25-38.

Regulation and patterns of endogenous and exogenous gene expression during differentiation of embryonal carcinoma cells.

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Department of Oncology and Virology, Roche Research Center, Nutley, NJ 07110.


Embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells offer an interesting model system for evaluating differentiation because the cells are pluripotent, thus resembling germ cells and embryonic stem cells, and because a number of agents have been defined that are capable of promoting the differentiation of these cells. This chapter examines how EC cells might be triggered to differentiate, with emphasis on retinoic acid because this compound is a potent, naturally occurring inducer that has been studied extensively in this system. The nature of alterations in gene expression during EC cell differentiation is reviewed from the perspective of evaluating whether these changes are likely to be responsible for, or a result of, the differentiation event. Finally, we consider in molecular terms why EC cells, but not their differentiated derivatives, are refractory to the expression of many viral genomes following infection. Based upon these studies, we propose that fundamental changes in gene expression that are observed when differentiation is triggered in EC cells are likely to be due to the disappearance or neutralization of strong repressor elements.

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