Cells of the mouse line Balb/3T3 as well as three virus-induced transformants and two spontaneous transformants grown in vitro have been studied for their topography by scanning electron microscopy. The parent cell in confluent culture closely resembles an endothelial cell in its form and in the structure of its association with adjacent cells. The tumorigenic transformants produced by SV40, murine sarcoma virus, or polyoma viruses are fusiform to pleomorphic and distinctly different from the cell of origin. They show relatively smooth surfaces except for blebs and marginal microvilli. Perhaps most surprising is the similarity they bear to one another. This is made the more singular by the very different form shown by the tumorigenic transformants of spontaneous origin. One of these, S2-4, possesses a thickened rather than the lamellar form of the parent A31 cell and is covered by long microvilli and many spherical blebs. The other, TuT3, more closely resembles the cell of origin but shows extensive ruffling at its margins. All transformants grow without evidence of contact inhibition.
The significance of the surface morphologies and the factors influencing cell form are discussed.