Cultured stem-cells from human testicular teratomas: the nature of human embryonal carcinoma, and its comparison with two types of yolk-sac carcinoma

Int J Cancer. 1987 Sep 15;40(3):334-43. doi: 10.1002/ijc.2910400309.


The understanding of differentiation in human teratomas requires a better definition of the phenotype and developmental potential of the stem cells in these tumours. We describe the characterization of 6 new cell lines from human testicular teratomas which are representative of 3 distinct cell types. Cell lines GCT 27, GCT 35, and GCT 48, identified as embryonal carcinoma, comprise epithelial cells which express cytokeratin intermediate filaments and desmoplakins, as determined by indirect immunofluorescence microscopy. A minority of the cells also express vimentin. Most cells in these cultures show surface staining with monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to stage-specific embryonic antigens SSEA 3 and SSEA 4 but not SSEA 1. Staining with MAb W6/32, which recognizes HLA A,B and C chains in the presence of beta-2 microglobulin, is not above background level. When injected into nude mice, GCT 27 cells form tumours consisting of embryonal carcinoma, somatic tissues, and cells positive in immunocytochemical assays for alphafoetoprotein (AFP) and human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG); GCT 35 cells form embryonal carcinomas with foci of AFP and HCG-positive cells; and GCT 48 cells form embryonal carcinoma only. A second type of cell (GCT 72) displays some properties of rodent visceral endoderm. GCT 72 cells contain cytokeratin intermediate filaments, but not vimentin, and show very strong staining at cell borders with anti-desmoplakin I + II antibody. At the cell surface, GCT 72 cells express the epitopes recognized by antibodies to SSEA 3, SSEA 4, and SSEA 1; staining with W6/32 is negligible. Levels of AFP in supernatants from GCT 72 cultures are in excess of 500 KIU/I. The tumours formed following inoculation of nude mice with GCT 72 cells are solid yolk-sac tumours, with all cells strongly positive for AFP. A third cell type (GCT 44 and GCT 46), resembles in some ways rodent parietal endoderm. These cells uniformly coexpress keratin and vimentin intermediate filaments, but not desmoplakins. The determinants recognized by MAbs to SSEA 3, 4, or 1 are not detected on the majority of cells in these cultures. In striking contrast to the other teratoma lines, these cells can attach to untreated tissue culture plastic in serum-free medium and may be serially cultivated under these conditions. The tumours formed in nude mice by these 2 cell lines are yolk-sac carcinomas with endodermal sinus tumour histology. Thus, human testicular teratomas consist of epithelial cells which may be nullipotent, pluripotent or committed to extraembryonic endodermal differentiation.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Surface / analysis
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / analysis
  • Dysgerminoma / pathology*
  • Embryonal Carcinoma Stem Cells
  • Glycolipids / analysis
  • Humans
  • Lewis X Antigen
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Teratoma / pathology*
  • Testicular Neoplasms / pathology*
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / analysis


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin
  • Glycolipids
  • Lewis X Antigen
  • alpha-Fetoproteins