Differentiation‐related death of an established keratinocyte line in suspension culture

James H. Morrissey, Howard Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An established keratinocyte line (XB), derived from a mouse teratoma, terminally differentiates in suspension culture in a manner similar to human epidermal keratinocytes. When surface‐grown XB cells are placed in suspension culture, they lose colony forming ability very rapidly; within three days the loss is virtually complete. Measurement of the ability of the suspended cells to synthesize protein and RNA show that they begin to lose both after 12 hours, the rate of uridine and glycine incorporation falling nearly to zero in about 36 hours. The cells then become insoluble in ionic detergents, owing to the formation of disulfide‐stabilized keratin filaments, and digest their nuclei. The total RNA content of the cells (a measure of ribosomes) begins to drop sharply about 12 hours after the cells are placed in suspension culture, and most RNA is eliminated by 24 hours. This process is independent of the presence of serum in the medium. DNA also begins to disappear from the cells, but this process is slower than ribosomal destruction and is strongly affected by the presence of serum. After seven days in the absence of serum, half the DNA still remains, and nearly all the nuclei are still visible, whereas during the same period in the presence of serum all visible nuclei and all DNA disappear. In contrast to the destructive process that takes place in the keratinocytes, 3T3 cells are much more stable in suspension culture. They show a reversible decline in their rate of amino acid incorporation, but no decline in their rate of uridine incorporation, and they undergo little loss in colony forming efficiency for several days. They retain most of their RNA and nuclei with full DNA content. The destructive process in suspended XB cells seems to be a model for the cell death that takes place in terminal differentiation of the keratinocyte.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-475
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1978
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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