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Jpn J Cancer Res. 1993 Jun;84(6):625-32.

Changes of proliferative activity and phenotypes in spontaneous differentiation of a colon cancer cell line.

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Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, Keio University, Tokyo.


We examined the alterations of proliferative activity and c-myc expression of a colon cancer cell line (Caco-2) during its spontaneous differentiation. Caco-2 cells were cultured in various types of media and the degree of differentiation was monitored in terms of dome formation in cell monolayers and expression of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity. In Caco-2 cells cultured with Eagle's minimum essential medium (EMEM) containing 10% fetal calf serum (FCS), dome formation was demonstrated and ALP activity was markedly increased after the cells reached confluence. Five-fold reduction of c-myc mRNA and a marked decrease in S-phase cells were observed in the differentiated cells. These changes were not induced in FCS-free EMEM. The addition of insulin and transferrin to FCS-free EMEM did not induce cell differentiation or reduction of c-myc mRNA expression. When Caco-2 cells were cultured with three different serum-free media, the induction of dome formation and the increase of ALP activity were observed to varying degrees. Expression of c-myc mRNA in the cells cultured with one serum-free medium decreased to a level similar to that in fully differentiated cells cultured with EMEM containing 10% FCS. These results suggest that a spontaneous switch from a proliferative state with high c-myc expression to differentiated phenotype occurs after cells reach confluence and depends on the culture conditions.

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