Transformation of epidermal cells in culture

S. H. Yuspa, M. Kulesz Martin, T. Ben, H. Hennings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Studies performed on mouse skin have indicated that chemical carcinogenesis can be subdivided into two distinct stages, initiation and promotion. Initiation results from exposure to a classical mutagenic carcinogen and is irreversible even after a single exposure. The permanently altered initiated cell and its progeny may never form a tumor or in any way be recognizable in the target tissue. Exposure to tumor promoters permits the expression of the neoplastic change in initiated cells, and tumors develop. In contrast to initiators, promoters must be given repeatedly to be effective; individual exposures are reversible. A similar biology is suggested by epidemiologic studies of certain human cancers, particularly lung, breast, colon, and uterine malignancies. Studies in mouse skin cell culture have provided new insights into the changes associated with initiation and promotion. Initiated cells appear to be resistant to signals for terminal differentiation and can proliferate under conditions where normal epidermal cells are obligated to cease proliferation and begin their maturation program. This change is essential for an epithelial tumor cell since it provides the ability to grow away from a basement-membrane attachment site. In cultured epidermal cells, tumor promoters are capable of selectively stimulating the growth of certain cells, including initiated cells, while simultaneously inducing terminal differentiation in other epidermal cells. The net effect of these responses to promoters is the clonal expansion of cells stimulated to proliferate. In this way, promoters are capable of increasing the clone size of initiated cells. These cell culture data provided a biological framework for understanding initiation and promotion in terminally differentiating epithelial tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S162-S168
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number1 Suppl.
StatePublished - 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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