Expression of the Large T Protein of Polyoma Virus Promotes the Establishment in Culture of ``Normal'' Rodent Fibroblast Cell Lines
Transfer into mouse and rat embryo fibroblasts in primary culture of cloned polyoma virus genes encoding only the large T protein led to the establishment of flat colonies in sparse subcultures at a frequency equal to that of transformation by wild-type virus. Cell lines could be derived from such colonies and maintained in culture for large numbers of generations without entering crisis. They exhibited a normal phenotype, by the criteria of growth on plastic to a low saturation density and of anchorage dependency. However, they required a lower serum concentration for growth than spontaneously established 3T3 cells. Similar results were obtained after transfer of recombinant DNA molecules encoding only the amino-terminal 40% of the large T protein, suggesting that this "immortalization" function corresponds to the activity of an amino-terminal domain of the protein. Immunoprecipitation analysis of T antigens in cell lines established after transfer of the full-size and of the truncated large T genes demonstrated the expression of the full-size large T protein and of a Mr 40,000 antigen expressed from the amino-terminal part of the gene, respectively. After transfer of a "large T only" plasmid that carries a tsa mutation, cell lines were established at 33 degrees C with the same efficiency as with the wild-type large T gene, but their growth was arrested after a shift to 40 degrees C, with a progressive loss in cell viability. This result indicates a continuous requirement for a large T function in the maintenance of "immortality."