The rate of homozygous CDKN2A/p16 deletions in glioma cell lines and in primary tumors

Int J Oncol. 1999 Nov;15(5):975-82. doi: 10.3892/ijo.15.5.975.


The rate of homozygous deletions of CDKN2A/p16 is variable between different tumor entities, and in addition it is higher in established cell lines in comparison with primary tumors. Such incongruencies may reflect statistical sampling errors, true differences depending on tissue derivatisation and CDKN2A/p16 loss under selective pressure in tissue culture. Clarification of these issues is warranted in the context of defining tumor suppressor genes such as CDKN2A/p16 as targets for gene replacement therapies. We therefore compared established cell lines derived from human glioblastomas and their corresponding primary tumors by multiplex PCR methodology. Archival early passages were included to determine the time point at which the p16 status of a cell line changes if it is different from the original tumor. It was found that in 2 of 11 cases (18%) the primary tumor had no p16 alteration whereas the corresponding cell lines had a homozygous p16 deletion. Tracking the in vitro evolution of these two cell lines we found that CDKN2A/p16 was lost already in the earliest passages. This suggests a clonal outgrowth advantage of a subpopulation of p16 deleted tumor cells rather than instability of the CDKN2A/p16 genotype in vitro. Including 20 additional glioblastoma-derived cell lines we detected that in 19 of the total 31 lines at least one exon was lost bringing the rate of p16 loss in the whole panel to 61%. This compares to a rate of 49% which was found in original glioma tissue from 47 unselected other patients. It is concluded, that in cell culture selective pressure favours the outgrowth of pre-existing CDKN2A/p16 negative clones, which account for the difference of CDKN2A/p16 status between cell lines and tumors. In no case did we see a change of the CDKN2A/p16 status during prolonged tissue culture periods of up to 8 years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16 / genetics*
  • Exons
  • Female
  • Gene Deletion*
  • Glioblastoma / genetics
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Glioma / genetics*
  • Glioma / pathology
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16