Human HT-29 colon carcinoma cells: Mucin production and tumorigenicity in relation to growth phases

Y. Niv*, B. Schwartz, Y. Amsalem, S. A. Lamprecht

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The main aim of this study was to determine whether changes in mucin production/secretion during the growth phases of a human adenocarcinoma cell line, HT-29, are associated with a different tumorigenic potential. HT-29 cells cultured in DMEM supplemented with 10% FCS were harvested in the exponential and post-confluent phases of growth. Metabolic labeling of the cells was performed using [3H]-glucosamine. Following a 24 hr-incubation period, radioactivity was measured in 1 ml-aliquots of cell cytosol and culture medium. Concurrently, mucin synthesis was assessed by size exclusion chromatography of [3H]-glucosamine-labeled glycoprotein in a sepharose CL-4B column. Clonigenic assay in soft agar of pre- and post-confluent HT-29 cells was determined by scoring viable colonies according to size and number using phase-contrast microscopy. To assess in vivo tumorigenicity, pre- and post-confluent HT-29 cells (4χ106) in 0.2 ml DMEM were inoculated into nude mice. Tumour size and volume were recorded for 31 days. H-29 cells grew as multilayers of unpolarized, undifferentiated cells. Colony forming efficiency was similar at all growth stages. A significant increase in mucin synthesis was noted in HT-29 cells harvested in the exponential phase of growth compared to the stationary phase (148.3±41.9 versus 49.1±5.0, mean±SE, dpm/4χ103 cells, p< 0.05). Mucin secretion was not significantly changed. Tumorigenicity in nude mice was consistently higher when the cells were injected in the exponential phase of growth. On day 31 after cell inoculation the average tumor volume/site was 332.7 mm3 in mice injected with HT-29 cells in log phase compared to 142.7 mm3 (p<0.01) in animals which received post-confluent cells. Tumor weights were 0.36 g and 0.22 g respectively (p< 0.05). The present results indicate a definitive correlation between growth phases of HT-29 cells and mucin synthesis: mucin production was significantly higher in exponentially growing cells. The cloning efficiency in soft agar, a marker of in vivo tumorigenicity, was similar in HT-29 cells irrespective of the growth stage. A main finding of the present study was the increased in vivo tumorigenicity of colon cancer cells inoculated into athymic mice in the log phase of growth compared to cells harvested at post-confluence. These results are consistent with the view that mucin plays an important contributory role in determining tumorigenicity

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2023-2027
Number of pages5
JournalAnticancer Research
Issue number5 B
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Mucin
  • Tumorigenicity


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