Normal human melanocytes, which require the phorbol ester 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) for growth in culture, were transfected with a SV40 T-antigen-containing plasmid by using the technique of electroporation, and were scored for colonies of morphologically altered cells. The frequency of transformed colonies was higher when selection was done in the absence rather than the presence of TPA in the medium. Three cell lines derived from transformed colonies were characterized. All show an enhanced growth rate compared to parental cells, anchorage independence, loss of dependence on medium supplements for growth, chromosomal abnormalities, an extended life span, and growth inhibition by TPA. They express nerve growth factor receptor and Mr 97,000 protein, melanotransferrin, two antigens usually associated with melanocytic cells, but the transformed cells are not pigmented. The three cell lines underwent crisis at about passage 10 posttransfection; one cell line recovered and appears to have unlimited growth potential. None of the cell lines is tumorigenic. They should be interesting models for studying multistage carcinogenesis in human cells and transcriptional activation by TPA.
Supported by Grants CA-37168, CA-25874 and CA-10815 from the National Cancer Institute, NIH, and by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to K. M.