Neuroblastoma cells can actively eliminate supernumerary MYCN gene copies by micronucleus formation - Sign of tumour cell revertance?

I. M. Ambros, S. Rumpler, A. Luegmayr, C. M. Hattinger, S. Strehl, H. Kovar, H. Gadner, P. F. Ambros

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Human neuroblastoma cell lines frequently exhibit MYCN amplification and many are characterised by the presence of morphologically distinct cell types. The neuronal cells (N-cells) and the so-called fiat cells (F-cells) are thought to represent manifestations of different neural crest cell lineages and are considered to be the consequence of neuroblastoma cell pluripotency. In this study, various neuroblastoma cell lines were examined for micronuclei. In F-cells of neuroblastoma cell lines with extrachromosomally amplified MYCN, we observed the frequent occurrence of micronuclei. Using fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) with a MYCN specific probe, we demonstrated that these micronuclei were packed with MYCN hybridisation signals. In addition, in a minor percentage of cells, MYCN signals occurred in clusters, adhered to the nuclear membrane and aggregated in nuclear protrusions. In F-cells, a substantial reduction or lack of amplified MYCN copies was observed. These observations let us conclude that extrachromosomally amplified genes can be actively eliminated from the nucleus resulting in a dramatic loss of amplified sequences in the F-cells. Moreover, reduction or loss of amplified sequences in F-cells was shown to be accompanied by downregulation of MYCN expression, by a decrease in proliferative activity and by upregulation of molecules of the major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC I). Interestingly, F-cells are not restricted to neuroblastoma cell cultures, but also occur in cell lines of other tissue origin. All F-cells share important biological features, interpreted as cell revertance, i.e. loss of the malignant phenotype and properties. This fact, together with the demonstration that neuroblastoma cells do not differentiate into Schwann cells in vivo [1] Ambros et al. NEJM 1996, 334, 1505-1511, do not support the hypothesis that F-cells represent Schwannian/glial differentiation in vitro. We therefore postulate that the elimination of amplified MYCN gene copies in cultivated neuroblastoma cells is in line with the phenomenon of tumour cell revertance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2043-2049
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1997


  • Cell lines
  • F-cells
  • in situ hybridisation
  • MHC I
  • Micronuclei
  • MYCN amplification
  • MYCN expression
  • N-cells
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Proliferative activity
  • Revertant cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Hematology
  • Oncology

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