Purpose: Prior studies emphasized genetic modulation of tumorigenicity, and experimental metastatic potential in cells transfected with oncogenes. Whether the intrinsic radiaton sensitivity of cells might correlate with parallel changes in metastatic potential is unknown.
Methods and materials: Rat embryo cells (REC) were transfected with the following oncogenes, and where appropriate, with corresponding selection markers: pCMVneopEJ6.6ras, pEJ6.6ras/v-myc, pEla, and pEJ6.6ras/Ela. Individual transfectant clones and corresponding pooled cellular populations were propagated in selective medium. In vitro cellular radiation sensitivity was determined via clonogenic assays, a minimum of three, by standard techniques and individual SF2 and MID parameters determined. Tumorigenicity was defined as the number of tumors forming following the injection of 1 x 10(5) - 1 x 10(6) cells into the axillary pouch of three different strains of immune-deficient mice. Animals were killed once resultant tumors reached a maximum size of 1.5-2.0 cm in maximum diameter. For determination of experimental metastatic potential, between 1 x 10(5) - 1 x 10(6) cells were injected into the tail veins of litter-matched sibling mice in parallel to the tumorigenicity studies.
Results: Radiobiologic studies indicate similar levels of radiation sensitivity among REC, mock-transfected REC, Ela, and combined E1a/ras transfectants. pEJ6.6ras, and combined ras/myc transfected pooled cellular populations demonstrated increases in radiation resistance when compared to the pooled radiobiologic data from untransfected and mock-transfected corresponding pooled cellular populations (p <0.05, two-tailed test, SF2, MID). Rat embryo cells, Ela, and mock-transfectants were relatively radiation sensitive and nontumorigenic. pEla/ras was tumorigenic but demonstrated relatively low experimental metastatic potential. Ras, and ras/myc transfectants, demonstrated similar levels of experimental metastatic potential on lung colonization assays.
Conclusions: A good correlation exists between the intrinsic radiation sensitivity and the experimental metastatic potential of transfected REC. The highest levels of radiation resistance in vitro and experimental metastatic potential in vivo were found among REC transfected with ras/myc or activated ras alone. E1a/ ras cotransfected cellular populations, although tumorigenic, were relatively radiation sensitive and nonmetastatic. Further study is needed to formulate a mechanistic explanation for the intriguing correlation between intrinsic radiation sensitivity in vitro and metastatic potential in vivo.