Rat hepatocytes were transformed by simian virus 40 (SV40). Hepatocytes from two different strains of rats and a temperature-sensitive mutant (SV40tsA 1609), as well as wild-type virus were used. In all cases, transformed cells arose from approximately 50% of the cultures containing hepatocytes on collagen gels or a collagen gel-nylon mesh substratum. Cells did not proliferate in mock-infected cultures. SV40-transformed hepatocytes were epithelial in morphology, retained large numbers of mitochondria, acquired an increased nucleus to cytoplasm ratio, and contained cytoplasmic vacuoles. Evidence that these cells were transformed by SV40 came from the findings that transformants were 100% positive for SV40 tumor antigen expression, and that SV40 was rescued when transformed hepatocytes were fused with monkey cells. All SV40-transformed cell lines tested formed clones in soft agarose. Several cell lines transformed by SV40tsA 1609 were temperature dependent for colony formation on plastic dishes. Transformants were diverse in the expression of characteristic liver gene functions. Of eight cell lines tested, one secreted 24% of total protein as albumin, which was comparable to albumin production by freshly plated hepatocytes; two other cell lines produced 4.2 and 5.7%, respectively. Tyrosine aminotransferase activity was present in five cell lines tested but was inducible by dexamethasone treatment in only two. We conclude from these studies that adult, nonproliferating rat hepatocytes are competent for virus transformation.

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