Author(s): Damjanov I
BACKGROUND: Germ cell tumors are empirically divided into seminomas and nonseminomatous germ cell tumors (NSGCT). Some authorities consider seminomas to be the precursors of NSGCT, whereas others consider them as distinct and unrelated neoplasms. Here, we report that the human NSGCT-derived stem cell line, NCCIT has hybrid features of seminoma and embryonal carcinoma, and suggest that this cell line could be useful for studying the relationship of seminoma to NSGCT.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: NCCIT, a developmentally pluripotent permanent cell line derived from a mediastinal NSGCT was karyotyped and characterized morphologically, immunochemically, and biochemically. The cells were grown under standard tissue culture conditions and were also exposed to retinoic acid to induce differentiation.
RESULTS: The dividing NCCIT stem cell populations consist of vimentin-positive, keratin-negative cells that do not express desmoplakin or cadherin E (uvomorulin) and are not interconnected with one another. These cells have a high nucleocytoplasmic ratio and contain few cytoplasmic organelles, except for free ribosomes and a small number of mitochondria. Lacto- and globoseries oligosaccharide antigens recognized with antibodies to murine stage specific antigens 1, 3 and 4 (SSEA-1, SSEA-3 and SSEA-4), and human teratocarcinoma mucin-like antigen TRA-1-60 and TRA-1-81 are coexpressed on the cell membranes of a considerable number of stem cells. On most cells alkaline phosphatase can be detected by enzyme histochemistry. The placental isoenzyme of alkaline phosphatase was demonstrated by Western blotting in cell extracts. The liver/bone/kidney isoenzyme of alkaline phosphatase is immunochemically detected on 40% of cells. The culture supernatants also contain chorionic gonadotropin and alpha-fetoprotein, presumably derived from trophoblastic and yolk sac-like cells. The cells are hyperdiploid (chromosome range from 54 to 64) and show prominent structural chromosomal aberrations, mostly deletions and isochromosomes. Retinoic acid treatment inhibited the growth of NCCIT cells and induced stem cell differentiation into keratin, glial fibrillary acid protein, and neurofilament-positive somatic cells. The differentiation was associated with the disappearance of oligosaccharide surface antigens typical of the undifferentiated stem cells; a loss of proteins typical of undifferentiated cells and the appearance of new proteins; and the deposition of extracellular matrix.
CONCLUSIONS: NCCIT is a developmentally pluripotent cell line that can differentiate into derivatives of all three embryonic germ layers (i.e., ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm) and extraembryonic cell lineages. We suggest that this cell line could be a malignant replica of human cleavage stage embryonic cells with features intermediate between seminoma and embryonal carcinoma.Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy