Contact mediated myogenesis and increased acetylcholinesterase activity in primary cultures of mouse teratocarcinoma cells

J. D. Gearhart, B. Mintz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Transplantable mouse teratomas contain multipotential teratocarcinoma stem cells analogous to early embryo cells and capable of giving rise to a wide variety of specialized cell types in vivo when they attach to a substratum; if they are grown instead in suspension in the body cavity, they form multicellular embryoid bodies which proliferate with little or no cell specialization. Thus changes initiated at the cell surface may play some role in promoting early cell differentiation. In order to establish an in vitro system for experimental investigation of this hypothesis, embryoid body cells were explanted under conditions of cell attachment versus suspension and maintained in primary culture. Because cell differentiation in previous reports was relatively limited in vitro, the 2 cellular populations were first compared for genesis of a quantifiable macromolecular phenotype, acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity, which characterizes several of the cell types most commonly formed in the attached tumors in vivo. The attached cells produced markedly increased levels of AChE activity within a few weeks, while cells in suspension retained basal levels. AChE was histochemically visualized and was found to occur chiefly in cells undergoing myogenesis, especially during myotube formation. Aberrant muscle fibers formed and became predominant in the cultures. When embryoid bodies were first fractionated by increasing size, which reflects their progressive differentiation, the smallest ones, with relatively more multipotential cells and no apparent muscle cells, also showed AChE increase in attached cultures. The results are consistent with the view that attachment of the cell surface to a substratum may play a critical role in initiating some cellular developmental commitments, as well as in sustaining differentiation of cells whose specialization has already been determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1734-1738
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1974
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General


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