We have introduced viral oncogenes into human mammary epithelial cells through the use of murine retroviruses. A continuous cell line (184A1N4) derived from benzo(a)pyrene treatment of normal breast epithelial cells was used as a recipient for the ras, mos, and T-antigen oncogenes. Each of these oncogenes enabled the 184A1N4 cells to grow in a selective medium, thus demonstrating the potential utility of these cells for oncogene detection and isolation. 184A1N4 cells transformed by T-antigen were nontumorigenic in athymic mice, but v-ras transformants were weakly tumorigenic. Transformants bearing both the T-antigen and ras oncogenes were strongly tumorigenic, however. The karyotype of these double transformants shows a high degree of stability. These results demonstrate the stepwise acquisition of the fully malignant phenotype by normal human epithelial cells in vitro.

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Support was provided by Cetus Corporation, NIH Grant CA24844, and the Office of Health and Environment Research, United States Department of Energy, under Contract DE-AC03-76SF00098.

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