Differentiation of cultured epithelial cells: Response to toxic agents

R. H. Rice, A. D. LaMontagne, C. T. Petito, X. Rong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Cell culture systems are instrumental in elucidating regulation of normal function and mechanisms of its perturbation by toxic substances. To this end, three applications of epithelial cells cultured with 3T3 feeder layer support are described. First, treatment of the premalignant human epidermal keratinocyte line SCC-12F2 with the tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate suppressed cell growth and differentiation. This agent produced a biphasic growth response greatly inhibiting cell growth at 1 to 10 nM, but much less above 100 nM. Expression of the differentiated functions involucrin and transglutaminase was found to be inhibited markedly at concentrations above 10 nM. Second, 3-methylcholanthrene toxicity was surveyed in a variety of rat epithelial cell types. The two most sensitive to growth inhibition were epidermal and mammary epithelial cells, while those from bladder, prostate, thyroid, and endometrium were insensitive to growth inhibition. Great differences were evident even among those cells derived from stratified squamous epithelia (epidermal, esophageal, vaginal, forestomach) despite their expression of aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase activities to similar degrees. Finally, expression of estrogen receptors in rat endometrial cells was shown to be stimulated by the cAMP-elevating agent forskolin. Maximal stimulation of 3- to 6-fold occurred in 6 hr, compatible with a requirement for protein synthesis. Although expressing keratinocyte character (transglutaminase activity and enevelope forming ability), the cells thus retain some hormonal character that may be modulated by cAMP-dependent kinase activity. Pursuit of such results will aid in understanding differences in response among cell types and species, in elucidating mechanisms of action of known toxic substances and, ultimately, in predicting toxicity of less well understood agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-246
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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