A cloned nontumorigenic control cell line of C3H mouse embryo cells (C3H/1OT1/2CL8) and two cell lines derived from it by treatment in vitro with 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA) or 3-methylcholanthrene (MCA) were studied by scanning electron microscopy. Confluent control cells were polygonal in shape and extensively flattened with smooth surfaces. Both in vitro transformants were pleomorphic to fusiform in shape, thicker than the control cells, and lacked contact inhibition. Microvilli of variable length and small marginal ruffles were characteristic surface alterations of the MCA-transformed cells, while blebs and numerous cytoplasmic strands extending between cells were typical of the DMBA transformant. Inoculation of the DMBA-transformed cells into C3H mice and re-establishment of cells from one of the subsequent fibrosarcomas in culture revealed an increased number of microvilli on the surface of the cells and an alteration in growth pattern. Other surface characteristics remained the same. A possible relationship between surface topography and outer membrane glycolipids is discussed.

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