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Cell Growth Differ. 1995 Apr;6(4):449-56.

Human neuroblastoma I-type cells are malignant neural crest stem cells.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Fordham University, Bronx, New York 10458, USA.


Human neuroblastoma I-type cells isolated from cell lines in vitro are morphologically intermediate between neuroblastic (N) cells, with properties of embryonic sympathoblasts, and substrate-adherent (S) cells having properties of embryonic Schwann/glial/melanocytic cells of the neural crest. I cells have biochemical features of both N and S cells. We propose that the I-type cell represents a malignant neural crest stem cell. The strongest evidence in support of this hypothesis is that: (a) I cells can generate progeny that have neuronal properties, i.e., are committed neuroblasts, or properties of nonneuronal, embryonic neural crest-derived cells; and (b) I-type cells can generate multipotent I-type progeny, indicating their capacity for self-renewal, a feature of stem cells. We report here that I-type cells, derived from four different human neuroblastoma cell lines and experimentally induced to differentiate, give rise to cells with distinct N or S cell phenotypes, indicative of I cell multipotentiality. Experiments with a large panel of I-type subclones, isolated from clonal I-type BE(2)-C cells and exposed to retinoic acid to induce neuronal differentiation or 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine to obtain S-type cells, demonstrated that differentiation occurs via induction and selection and not by selection of spontaneously arising variants. The differentiation phenotype was stable. We conclude that human neuroblastoma I-type cells are multipotent embryonic precursor cells of the peripheral nervous system, capable of either neuronal or nonneuronal neural crest cell differentiation.

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