Mitotic, nonmalignant Balb/c 3T3 cells exhibit endogenous, surface galactosyltransferase activity that does not require intercellular contact throughout the assay period. In this respect, mitotic 3T3 cells resemble malignant Balb/c 3T12 cells which similarly show no contact requirement for optimum transferase activity in any phase of their cell cycle.
Previously, it was shown that randomly growing populations of 3T3 cells have lower galactosyltransferase activity when assayed under conditions which decreased cell contact. This led to the conclusion that these normal (3T3) and malignant (3T12) cells differed in that intercellular contact is required for optimum activity of surface galactosyltransferases on the normal cell type.
The present data indicate that mitotic 3T3 cells may be capable of expressing enzyme activities exhibited at all times by malignant cells. That is, mitotic 3T3 cells and randomly growing 3T12 cells may readily catalyze galactosyltransferase reactions between enzymes and acceptors on the same cell. Interphase 3T3 cells, on the other hand, might require that enzymes glycosylate acceptors on adjacent cells. A model is proposed that suggests that changes in the spatial arrangement of surface enzymes and acceptors or variations in the fluidity of the cell membrane can account for this contact-related glycosylation.