We have examined contact-mediated intercellular communication by measuring the transfer of thioguanine sensitivity to a hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase (EC clone (66cl-4) selected from one subline isolated previously from a spontaneously arising mammary tumor of a BALB/cfC3H mouse. We tested other sublines from the same tumor and unrelated cell types for their ability to serve as 6-thioguanine nucleotide donors to 66cl-4 cells. The degree of communication, measured by the number of donor cells required to reduce the number of thioguanine-resistant colonies, varied with the donor cell type. The 66cl-4 line communicated with the parent cell line from which the thioguanine-resistant cell was selected and with other sublines from the parent tumor, with some unrelated tumor cells, and with some nonneoplastic cells (3T3, hamster kidney and lung fibroblasts, and mouse mammary epithelial cells). There was a quantitative difference in the amount of communication which took place with the various cells tested, but no pattern of difference could be discerned. Line 66cl-4 did not preferentially communicate with cells of epithelial versus fibroblast morphology, nor with tumor versus nontumor cells. The 66cl-4 cells retained the ability of their parent line to form metastatic tumors when injected s.c. into BALB/c mice. A quantitative selectivity of communication is thus expressed in these malignant metastatic cells, but it is apparently unrelated to either the morphological or malignant phenotype of the donor. Contact-mediated communication between tumor subpopulations may differentially affect growth and drug sensitivity within a tumor.


This work was supported by a Developmental Award from the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Metropolitan Detroit (CA 22453), CA 28366, CA33763, and the E. Walter Albachten Bequest.

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