Retinoic acid-induced differentiation of human neuroblastoma: A cell variant system showing two distinct responses

N. Sidell, T. Sarafian, M. Kelly, T. Tsuchida, M. Haussler

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56 Scopus citations


Retinoic acid (RA) has been shown to induce the differentiation of human neuroblastoma cells in vitro. In this study, we describe two variants of the SK-N-SH human neuroblastoma cell line that have dramatically different responses to RA. RA induces neuronal-like differentiation characterized by extensive neurite outgrowth, thick neurite bundles, and large cellular aggregates of SK-N-SH-N (SH-N) cells. In contrast, RA treatment of SK-N-SH-F (SH-F) cultures transforms the small neuroblast cells into large flattened, fibroblastic or epithelial-like cells. Karyotype analysis verified that the SH-N and SH-F cultures were derived from a common precursor cell. Confirmation of their markedly different responses to RA was obtained by metabolic labelling of glycoproteins and SDS-PAGE analysis. While both sublines showed very similar Coomassie-labelled protein bands and glycoprotein profiles in control cultures, dramatic differences between the lines were revealed following RA treatment. In contrast to their similar protein profiles, untreated SH-N and SH-F cells had quite different patterns of ganglioside biosynthesis in that GM3 was detected in SH-F cells but not in SH-N, while GM1 was only detected in SH-N. Cellular RA binding protein (CRABP) was detected in both SH-F and SH-N cells and their RA-transformed derivatives. These results demonstrate heterogeneity in the response to RA of neuroblastoma cells derived from a common origin that cannot be accounted for by differences in CRABP content. The SH-N and SH-F neuroblastoma sublines should provide a useful system for further studies of the molecular processes through which RA exerts its differentiation-inducing activity on this type of tumor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-300
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental Cell Biology
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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