Terminal differentiation of human promyelocytic leukemia cells induced by dimethyl sulfoxide and other polar compounds

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1978 May;75(5):2458-62. doi: 10.1073/pnas.75.5.2458.


A human leukemic cell line (designated HL-60) has recently been established from the peripheral blood leukocytes of a patient with acute promyelocytic leukemia. This cell line displays distinct morphological and histochemical commitment towards myeloid differentiation. The cultured cells are predominantly promyelocytes, but the addition of dimethyl sulfoxide to the culture induces them to differentiate into myelocytes, metamyelocytes, and banded and segmented neutrophils. All 150 clones developed from the HL-60 culture show similar morphological differentiation in the presence of dimethyl sulfoxide. Unlike the morphologically immature promyelocytes, the dimethyl sulfoxide-induced mature cells exhibit functional maturity as exemplified by phagocytic activity. A number of other compounds previously shown to induce erythroid differentiation of mouse erythroleukemia (Friend) cells can induce analogous maturation of the myeloid HL-60 cells. The marked similarity in behavior of HL-60 cells and Friend cells in the presence of these inducing agents suggests that similar molecular mechanisms are involved in the induction of differentiation of these human myeloid and murine erythroid leukemic cells.

MeSH terms

  • Butyrates / pharmacology
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Clone Cells
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide / pharmacology*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology*
  • Phagocytosis
  • Preleukemia / pathology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Butyrates
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide