We examined by electron microscopy the differences in junctional intercellular communications among highly metastatic clones, weakly metastatic clones, and the parent clone obtained from a spontaneously developed rat mammary carcinoma. We also investigated intercellular communications of the highly and weakly metastatic clone cells with normal fibroblasts. The results showed that ultrastructural changes of the highly metastatic clone cells, such as microvilli, microfilaments, and small organelles including endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, and mucous particles, were more distinct than those of the weakly metastatic clone cells, and that the numbers of desmosome and gap junctions of weakly metastatic clone cells were significantly greater than those of highly metastatic clone cells. The formation of gap junctions and desmosomes was found only between weakly metastatic clone cells and normal fibroblasts. When both highly and weakly metastatic clone cells were cultured with normal fibroblasts, a tight junction was observed only in the culture of weakly metastatic clone cells and normal fibroblasts.

These results suggest that ultrastructural differences are related to the proliferation and detachment of tumor cells from the primary site in the initial stage of tumor metastasis.

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