Neuroblastoma cells provoke Schwann cell proliferation in vitro

Med Pediatr Oncol. 2001 Jan;36(1):163-8. doi: 10.1002/1096-911X(20010101)36:1<163::AID-MPO1040>3.0.CO;2-2.


Background: A subset of human neuroblastomas (NBs) has the capacity to mature completely, imitating sympathetic ganglia. Previously, we showed that the neuronal population in spontaneously maturing NBs usually has a near-triploid DNA content without 1p deletions, and we concluded that the constantly diploid Schwann cells (SCs) do not belong to the neoplastic component of these tumours. We therefore hypothesised that NB cells are able to stimulate SC proliferation, and that SCs trigger NB differentiation.

Procedure: We performed in vitro experiments to test this model and to test whether SCs can also influence the growth of aggressive NBs. Human SCs were co-cultivated with NB tumours and cell lines, and were harvested after defined time intervals. Proliferative activity of the SCs and the NB cells was determined by visualisation of 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation or Ki-67 staining. Neurite outgrowth and neurofilament (NF) expression were analysed immunocytochemically and apoptotic rate was determined by a terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-X fluorescein nick end labelling (TUNEL) assay.

Results: Human NB tumours or cell lines unequivocally increased the proliferation of SCs in vitro. In cocultivated NB cells, the proliferative activity was not altered in the first days of cocultivation, although neurite outgrowth and NF expression were enhanced. However, after 10 days, the mitotic rate of neuroblastic cells decreased and the apoptotic rate showed a marked increase.

Conclusions: The results of the cocultivation experiments provide an experimental hint that the in vivo growth of SCs in NBs is caused by the neoplastic neuroblasts, and they also indicate that cells from peripheral nerves can influence the growth of aggressive NB cells if cocultivated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Cells, Cultured / cytology
  • Chromosome Deletion
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 1 / genetics
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 1 / ultrastructure
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Genes, myc
  • Humans
  • Ki-67 Antigen / analysis
  • Mitotic Index
  • Neurites / ultrastructure
  • Neuroblastoma / genetics
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology*
  • Peripheral Nerves / cytology
  • Schwann Cells / cytology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / cytology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Ki-67 Antigen