The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 33: 105 - 115 (1989)

Vol 33, Issue 1

Special Issue: Developmental Biology in Finland

Teratocarcinoma stem cells as a model for differentiation in the mouse embryo

Published: 1 March 1989

E Lehtonen, A Laasonen and J Tienari

Department of Pathology, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells, which are the malignant stem cells of teratocarcinomas, are considered similar to early embryo cells. The EC cells can be grown in vitro, and many of them can be experimentally induced to differentiate; upon differentiation, the cells become benign. Here we review some of the changes that take place in the cellular and molecular characteristics of murine F9 EC cells as they differentiate into endodermal cells. Upon differentiation of F9 cells, distinct changes occur in their cell surface molecules, cytoskeleton-associated proteins and cell adhesion properties. Simultaneously, the rate of cell proliferation decreases due to a dramatic increase in duration of G1 and S phases of the cell cycle. The changes in gene expression and cell behavior occurring during endodermal differentiation of EC cells closely resemble those occurring when the endoderm differentiates in the embryo. Teratocarcinoma stem cell lines may thus be exploited to enhance understanding of both teratoma-type neoplasms and embryonic development.

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