Cells dissociated from normal prelactating mouse mammary glands or from spontaneous mammary adenocarcinomas, when grown at high density on an impermeable substrate, form nonproliferating, confluent, epithelial pavements in which turgid, blister-like domes appear as a result of fluid accumulation beneath the cell layer. To compare the structure of the fluid-segregating cell associations in normal and tumor cell cultures with that of lactating gland in vivo, we have examined such cultures alive and in thick and thin sections and freeze-fracture replicas. Pavement cells in all cases are polarized toward the bulk medium as a lumen equivalent, with microvilli and continuous, well-developed occluding junctions at this surface. Between the pavement and the substrate are other cells, of parenchymal or stromal origin, scattered or in loose piles; these sequestered cells are relatively unpolarized and never possess occluding junctions. Small gap junctions have been found in the pavement layer, and desmosomes may link epithelial cells in any location. Under the culture conditions used, development of the epithelial secretory apparatus is not demonstrable; normal and neoplastic cells do not differ consistently in any property examined. A dome's roof is merely a raised part of the epithelial pavement and does not differ from the latter in either cell or junction structure. We suggest that dome formation demonstrates the persistence of some transport functions and of the capacity to form effective occluding junctions. These basic epithelial properties can survive both neoplastic transformation and transition to culture.

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