Potentiation of the malignant phenotype of the undifferentiated ARO thyroid cell line by insertion of the bcl-2 gene

Fulvio Basolo, Lisa Fiore, Alfredo Fusco, Riccardo Giannini, Adriana Albini, Giorgio R. Merlo, Gabriella Fontanini, Pier Giulio Conaldi, Antonio Toniolo

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We have reported that bcl-2 is expressed in normal human thyroid epithelium and that its expression is down-regulated in undifferentiated thyroid tumors. Production of IL-6 was concomitantly down-regulated in these forms. Based on these observations, we analyzed whether insertion of bcl-2 would reverse the highly malignant phenotype of a thyroid cell line (ARO) derived from an undifferentiated carcinoma. This cell line fails to produce Bcl-2 and IL-6. By infection with a bcl-2 retroviral vector, ARO cells expressing bcl-2 (ARObcl-2) were obtained. Compared with parental cells, expression of bcl-2 was associated with enhancement of growth potential (DNA synthesis, in vitro proliferation rate, anchorage-independent growth in semi- solid media). Chemotaxis and invasive potential in Boyden chambers were also increased. bcl-2-expressing cells showed a reduced response to apoptotic stimuli (low-serum conditions or anti-neoplastic drugs). Large branched colonies were formed in Matrigel from ARObcl-2 cells but not from parental cells. Finally, ARObcl-2 cells showed a decreased latency of tumor appearance when injected into immunodeficient mice. Potentiation of the malignant phenotype of ARO cells by bcl-2 was not ascribed to altered expression of (i) cytokine/growth factors (IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12, TGF-α, TGF-β), (ii) thyroid-specific transcripts (TG, TPO, TSH-R, PIGF, PAX-8) or (iii) genes influencing tumor aggressiveness [VEGF, HMGI (Y), HMGI-C]. Our data indicate that bcl-2 potentiates the malignant phenotype of ARO cells not only by limiting the response to apoptotic stimuli but also by enhancing proliferation and tumor aggressiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)956-962
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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