Kinetics of in vitro ageing of mouse embryo fibroblasts

J Cell Sci. 1984 Jan:65:163-75. doi: 10.1242/jcs.65.1.163.


The kinetics of ageing of normal mouse embryo fibroblast cells in culture have been determined. The growth pattern during every passage was established. It was observed that the growth pattern was not exponential, but that the growth rate declined progressively both within and with every passage. We also estimated the cell cycle parameters using the Fraction of Labelled Mitoses method at every passage. We found that the cell cycle duration was constant throughout the lifespan of this cell strain; the median value of the cell cycle duration was found to be 15.5 +/- 0.5 h (S.D., n = 8). From these two sets of observations we infer that the fraction of dividing cells declines smoothly from the beginning of the culture. Our data exclude quite positively any description of ageing of the fibroblast population in terms of a catastrophe or any abrupt change in the population. Our data are also inconsistent with a linear decline in growth fraction. On the contrary, we observed that there was a gradual and smooth decline in the growth rate of the strain, due to a smoothly declining growth fraction. This smooth change in the growth behaviour of this cell strain is accurately described by the mortalization theory of Shall & Stein in which the single parameter gamma (gamma), describes the change in reproductive potential over the entire lifespan. The parameter gamma describes the rate at which the doubling time of the culture increases. It is the number of generations at which half of the newborn cells are themselves reproductively sterile. Our present data provided an estimate of gamma for this cell strain, which was consistent during the entire lifespan of the strain; the best estimate of gamma for this cell strain was 20.3 +/- 0.6 generations (S.D., n = 19).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Fibroblasts / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Time Factors


  • Culture Media