The only ras oncogene as yet identified in cells from human fibrosarcomas is N-ras, but the relationship between N-ras oncogene expression and the malignant state of these cell lines is not known. To determine if expression of an N-ras oncogene causes human cells to become malignant, we transfected the N-ras oncogene from human leukemia cell line 8402, cloned into a high expression vector pSV N-ras, into MSU-1.1 cells, a nontumorigenic, infinite life span fibroblast cell strain with a normal morphology and a stable near-diploid karyotype. The transformants formed distinct foci composed of morphologically transformed cells. Cells from such foci expressed higher than normal levels of N-ras protein, exhibited growth factor independence, and formed large colonies in soft agar at a high frequency. Injection of progeny of these focus-derived cells s.c. into athymic mice resulted in progressively growing, invasive malignant tumors (round cell, spindle cell, or giant cell sarcomas) which reached a diameter of 6 mm in 3 to 4 weeks. Injection of focus-derived or tumor-derived cells i.v. resulted in tumors in various organs of the mice. The focus-derived cell strain tested, as well as the majority of the cells derived from the tumor it produced, exhibited the same near-diploid karyotype as the parental MSU-1.1 cells. Cells transfected with an N-ras oncogene that was expressed at a normal level formed only a single, indistinct focus, and cells from that focus were not malignant.

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This research was supported in part by Department of Energy Contract DE-FG02-87-ER60524, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Contract N01-65152, and by Department of Health and Human Services Grant CA21289 from the National Cancer Institute.

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