The morphological effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF) on human carcinoma cells A-431 have been examined by scanning electron microscopy. These flat polygonal cells normally exhibit only small membrane folds, but show extensive ruffling and extension of filopodia within 5 min of exposure to EGF at 37 degrees C. This ruffling activity is transient, subsiding within another 5--15 min, but several other changes in surface morphology follow. Within the first hour of exposure to the hormone, the cell surface becomes exceedingly smooth and the nuclei seem to protrude above the plane of the otherwise thin monolayer, giving the cells a "fried egg" appearance. Cells at the edges of colonies gradually retract from the substrate, leading to reorganization, by 12 h, of the monolayer into multilayered colonies. EGF thus induces both rapid and long-term alterations in the morphology of these epidermoid cells.

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