Coordinate morphological and biochemical interconversion of human neuroblastoma cells

J Natl Cancer Inst. 1983 Oct;71(4):741-7.


This study was undertaken to determine whether the two type of cells (one neuroblast-like and the other epithelial in appearance) of the human neuroblastoma line SK-N-SH in culture undergo morphological interconversion, whether conversion is bidirectional, and whether there are coordinate neurochemical changes. Phenotypic analysis of serially isolated neuroblast clones (SH-SY, SH-SY5, SH-SY5Y) revealed conversion to epithelial-like cells. Conversely, conversion also was promoted from an epithelial-like clone (SH-EP) to neuroblastic subclones. Cell origin could be verified because of a marker chromosome specific to SH-EP. Only neuroblastic subclones of SH-EP contained activities for tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine-beta-hydroxylase, enzymes unique to catecholamine neurons; epithelial-like cells lacked activities for these enzymes. These findings indicate a coordinate morphological and biochemical interconversion of neuroblastoma SK-N-SH cells and reveal a plasticity in phenotypic expression in malignant neuronal cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Clone Cells
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase / analysis*
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Humans
  • Karyotyping
  • Neuroblastoma / metabolism
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology*
  • Neuroblastoma / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / enzymology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Phenotype
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / analysis*


  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase