Schwannomatosis, a rare form of neurofibromatosis, is characterized predominantly by multiple, often painful, schwannomas throughout the peripheral nervous system. The current standard of care for schwannomatosis is surgical resection. A major obstacle to schwannomatosis research is the lack of robust tumor cell lines. There is a great need for mechanistic and drug discovery studies of schwannomatosis, yet appropriate tools are not currently available. Schwannomatosis tumors are difficult to grow in culture as they survive only a few passages before senescence. Our lab has extensive experience in establishing primary and immortalized human Schwann cell cultures from normal tissue that retain their phenotypes after immortalization. Therefore we took on the challenge of creating immortalized human Schwann cell lines derived from tumors from schwannomatosis patients. We have established and fully characterized 2 schwannomatosis cell lines from 2 separate patients using SV40 virus large T antigen. One patient reported pain and the other did not. The schwannomatosis cell lines were stained with S100B antibodies to confirm Schwann cell identity. The schwannomatosis cells also expressed the Schwann cell markers, p75NTR, S100B, and NGF after multiple passages. Cell morphology was retained following multiple passaging and freeze/ thaw cycles. Gene expression microarray analysis was used to compare the cell lines with their respective parent tumors. No differences in key genes were detected, with the exception that several cell cycle regulators were upregulated in the schwannomatosis cell lines when compared to their parent tumors. This upregulation was apparently a product of cell culturing, as the schwannomatosis cells exhibited the same expression pattern of cell cycle regulatory genes as normal primary human Schwann cells. Cell growth was also similar between normal primary and immortalized tumor cells in culture. Accurate cell lines derived directly from human tumors will serve as invaluable tools for advancing schwannomatosis research, including drug screening.
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