A clonal, myoepithelial-like cell line has been obtained from a primary culture established from the mammary gland of a 7-d-old rat. In a number of respects, this cell line, termed Rama 401, resembles the myoepithelial cells of the mammary gland, especially when grown on floating collagen gels. The cells grow as multilayers on the gel surface and form branching structures that do not appear to contain a lumen. They are rather elongated, with irregular-shaped, flattened nuclei that contain large amounts of peripheral chromatin. Elongated processes project from the cell surface and numerous membrane pinocytotic vesicles can be seen. The cytoplasm is filled with linear arrays of 5- to 7-nm filaments with occasional dense foci. Cell junctions with associated 8- to 11-nm tonofilaments are also observed. Immunofluorescence techniques reveal actin and myosin filaments and also intermediate filaments of both prekeratin and vimentin types. Rama 401 cells secrete an amorphous material that, when an immunoperoxidase technique is used, stains with antibodies to basement membrane-specific type IV collagen. Localized densities of the cell membrane, which resemble hemidesmosomes, are located adjacent to these extracellular deposits. Immunofluorescence staining and immunoprecipitation techniques reveal that the cells also synthesize two other basement membrane proteins, laminin and fibronectin. The type IV collagen consists of two chains with molecular weights of 195,000 and 185,000.

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