We have characterized 14 human colorectal carcinoma cell lines established from primary and metastatic sites by us during the years 1982 to 1985. Five lines were established in fully defined ACL-4 medium and 9 in serum supplemented R10 medium. However, after establishment, cultures could be grown interchangeably in either medium. The lines grew as floating cell aggregates in ACL-4 medium, while most demonstrated substrate adherence in R10 medium. The lines had relatively long doubling times and low cloning efficiencies. Twelve were tumorigenic in athymic nude mice when injected s.c., and two grew i.p. as well. Based on culture, xenograft, and ultrastructural morphologies, the 14 lines could be subtyped as follows: 4 were well differentiated; 5 were moderately differentiated; 4 were poorly differentiated; and 1 was a mucinous carcinoma. Membrane associated antigens characteristic for gastrointestinal cells (carcinoembryonic antigen, CA 19-9, and TAG-72 antigens) were expressed by 50–71% of the lines. Lines expressing carcinoembryonic antigen and CA 19-9 actively secreted these antigens into the supernatant fluids while TAG-72 antigen was not secreted.

Surprisingly, 5 of 7 of the original tumor samples tested and 13 of 14 cultured lines expressed l-dopa decarboxylase activity, which is a characteristic enzyme marker of neuroendocrine cells and tumors. In addition, one poorly differentiated cell line contained dense core granules, characteristic of endocrine secretion.

Preliminary cytogenetic analyses indicated that 9 of 11 lines examined contained double minute chromosomes. In addition, 3 of the 9 lines with double minutes also had homogeneously staining regions. These findings indicate a high incidence of amplification of one or more as yet unidentified genes.


The opinion or assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense.

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