Send to

Choose Destination
Mol Carcinog. 1998 Nov;23(3):144-58.

Multiple stages and genetic alterations in immortalization, malignant transformation, and tumor progression of human skin keratinocytes.

Author information

Division of Carcinogenesis and Differentiation, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg.


An in vitro carcinogenesis model of human skin keratinocytes has been developed based on the spontaneously immortalized keratinocyte cell line HaCaT. Immortalization, the initial stage in human carcinogenesis in vitro, was induced by ultraviolet-type mutations in the p53 gene followed by further genetic alterations leading to the loss of senescence genes, in particular on chromosome 3p. Despite multiple genetic changes, the HaCaT cell line sustained its genomic balance up to high passage levels and maintained a non-tumorigenic phenotype. Tumorigenic transformation was induced by ras oncogene transfection but also by culture stress and elevated temperature, resulting in benign and malignant tumorigenic clones. Malignant conversion was associated with the loss of a copy of chromosome 15, leading to a decrease in thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1) expression. Heat-induced malignant conversion was associated with a gain of material on chromosome 11, including the cyclin D1 gene. The microenvironment plays a major role in tumorigenic transformation and the control of malignant cells. Overexpression of platelet-derived growth factor in HaCaT cells caused mesenchyme activation and formation of benign tumors. Halting tumor angiogenesis completely prevented invasion of malignant cells and induced a benign tumor phenotype. Transfer of a normal chromosome 15 or TSP-1 transfection into a skin carcinoma line resulted in tumor suppression due to TSP-1-blocked tumor vascularization. Because of the reduced TSP-1 expression, blood vessels infiltrated the tumor, and it expanded. Progression to more aggressive tumor phenotypes required the in vivo environment and was caused by selection of a subpopulation and further genetic modifications. The improved autonomous growth of these cells was associated with new expression of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, which acted in an autocrine manner to stimulate proliferation and migration. With this in vitro skin carcinogenesis model we were able to demonstrate multiple stages in the transformation process that were associated with different genetic and phenotypic characteristics. In addition, we documented that modulation of the tumor stroma plays an important and decisive role in tumor development and progression. From this we hypothesize that the growth restraints of the microenvironment are increasingly lost with advancing stages of carcinogenesis but can be restored by modulation of the tumor stroma.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center