Cell lines of monocyte/macrophage origin are often used as model systems to study monocyte/macrophage biology. A relevant question is how similar these cell lines are to their in vivo counterparts? To address this issue, we performed a detailed analysis of the transcriptome of two commonly used human monocyte/macrophage cell lines, Mono Mac 6 and THP-1. Both of these cell lines originate from leukemic cells with myelo-monocytic characteristics. We found that both Mono Mac 6 and THP-1 represent cells of very immature origin. Their transcriptomes show more similarities to immature neutrophils than cells of the monocyte/macrophage lineage. They express significant levels of N-elastase, proteinase 3, cathepsin G, and azurocidin but very low levels of CD14, ficolin, and complement factor P. All major MHC class II genes are also expressed at low levels. They show high levels of lysozyme and low levels of one of the immunoglobulin Fc receptors, FCGRIIA, which is characteristic of both neutrophils and monocytes. THP-1, but not Mono Mac 6, also expresses the high-affinity receptor for IgG, FCGRIA. Both cell lines lack the expression of the connective tissue components fibronectin, proteoglycan 4, and syndecan 3, which are characteristics of tissue macrophages but are absent in blood monocytes, indicating that they originate from bone marrow precursors and not yolk sac-derived hematopoietic cells. Both of these cell lines seem, therefore, to represent cells arrested during early myelo-monocytic development, at a branch point between neutrophil and monocyte differentiation. Their very immature phenotype indicates that great care should be taken when using these cell lines as models for normal monocyte/macrophage biology.
Keywords: Mono Mac 6; THP-1; cell line; in vitro; monocyte; neutrophil.