The embryonal carcinoma cell line PCC7-S-AzaR1 (clone 1009) has been shown to differentiate in the presence of all-trans retinoic acid and dibutyryl cAMP into cells of predominantly neural properties (Paulin, D., H. Jakob, F. Jacob, K. Weber, and M. Osborn. 1982. Differentiation. 22:90-99). By analyzing the marker expression of derivatives in further detail, we characterized the two major cell phenotypes as neuron- and fibroblast-like and the two minor ones as astroglia- and endothelial-like. The stability of developmental commitment of clone 1009 was tested by recloning. The isolated subclones exhibited different patterns of chemically induced derivatives, with some of them (denoted N-clones) producing only a single (neuronal) cell type. As shown by long-term cultures in the absence of retinoic acid, the properties of isolated subclones remained essentially stable. In contrast to the clones producing neuron-like and other derivatives upon induced differentiation, the (exclusively neuronal) derivatives of N-clones detached and died within a few days in culture. If maintained in the presence of other neural cell types, however, their survival was dramatically extended indicating a requirement for specific interactions with other cells of the same tissue. The patterns of derivatives obtained from N-clones depended on the chemical nature of the substrate on which they were grown. Thus, when seeded on laminin-coated surfaces before induced differentiation, N-clones developed not only to neuron-like derivatives but rather to the same four derivatives observed with the original cell pool. These and further results suggest a common cell lineage of the identified phenotypes. The isolated subclones of uninduced cells probably represent different states of commitment within the same developmental pathway. Their stability offers the opportunity to analyze the nature of cellular commitment on the cellular, molecular, and genetic levels. This makes the family of clones derived from PCC7-S-AzaR1 (clone 1009) cells an advantageous in vitro model of mammalian brain early ontogenesis.

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