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.
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.