Author(s): Drexler HG, Dirks WG, Matsuo Y, MacLeod RA, Drexler HG, Dirks WG, Matsuo Y, MacLeod RA
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Abstract Human leukemia-lymphoma (LL) cell lines represent an extremely important resource for research in a variety of fields and disciplines. As the cell lines are used as in vitro model systems in lieu of primary cell material, it is crucial that the cells in the culture flasks faithfully correspond to the purported objects of study. Obviously, proper authentication of cell line derivation and precise characterization are indispensable requirements to use as model systems. A number of studies has shown an unacceptable level of LL cell lines to be false. We present here the results of authenticating a comprehensively large sample (n = 550) of LL cell lines mainly by DNA fingerprinting and cytogenetic evaluation. Surprisingly, near-identical incidences (ca 15\%) of false cell lines were observed among cell lines obtained directly from original investigators (59/395: 14.9\%) and from secondary sources (23/155: 14.8\%) implying that most cross-contamination is perpetrated by originators, presumably during establishment. By comparing our data with those published, we were further able to subclassify the false cell lines as (1) virtual: cross-contaminated with and unretrievably overgrown by other cell lines during initiation, never enjoying independent existence; (2) misidentified: cross-contaminated subsequent to establishment so that an original prototype may still exist; or (3) misclassified: unwittingly established from an unintended (often normal) cell type. Prolific classic leukemia cell lines were found to account for the majority of cross-contaminations, eg CCRF-CEM, HL-60, JURKAT, K-562 and U-937. We discuss the impact of cross-contaminations on scientific research, the reluctance of scientists to address the problem, and consider possible solutions. These findings provide a rationale for mandating the procurement of reputably sourced LL cell lines and their regular authentication thereafter.
This article was published in Leukemia
and referenced in Journal of Forensic Research