Rabbit bladder epithelium, grown on collagen gels and exposed to the chemical carcinogen benzo[a]pyrene, produced nontumorigenic altered foci as well as tumorigenic epithelial cell lines during 120-180 d in culture. Immunofluorescence studies revealed extensive keratin filaments in both primary epithelial cells and benzo[a]pyrene-induced altered epithelial foci but showed no detectable vimentin filaments. The absence of vimentin expression in these cells was confirmed by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. In contrast, immunofluorescence staining of the cloned benzo[a]pyrene-transformed rabbit bladder epithelial cell line, RBC-1, revealed a reduction in filamentous keratin concomitant with the expression of vimentin filaments. The epithelial nature of this cell line was established by the observation that cells injected into nude mice formed well-differentiated adenocarcinomas. Frozen sections of such tumors showed strong staining with antikeratins antibodies, but no detectable staining with antivimentin antibodies. These results demonstrated a differential expression of intermediate filament type in cells at different stages of neoplastic progression and in cells maintained in different growth environments. It is apparent that the expression of intermediate filaments throughout neoplastic progression is best studied by use of an in vivo model system in parallel with culture studies.

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