The effects of serum depletion and dexamethasone on growth and differentiation of human neuroblastoma cell lines

Richard D. Glick, Irene Medary, Daniel C. Aronson, Kathleen W. Scotto, Steven L. Swendeman, Michael P. La Quaglia

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22 Scopus citations


Background/Purpose: Neuroblastoma is the most solid common extracranial malignancy in childhood. Despite multimodality treatment, high-risk disease continues to carry a poor prognosis. Glucocorticoids have been shown previously to induce differentiation in murine neuroblastoma cell lines, but no such effect has been documented in human neuroblastoma cells. Glucocorticoids are known to be active in the differentiation process of the neural crest. These studies describe the effects of dexamethasone on 6 human neuroblastoma cell lines. Methods: Dexamethasone was added to cultured neuroblastoma cell lines (LA1-5S, LA1-15N, BE[2]S, BE[2]N, SH-EP-1, SH-SY5Y) maintained in media supplemented with either normal serum or charcoal- depleted serum. Proliferation assays were performed, and flow cytometry was used to assess alterations in cell cycle. Cells were closely monitored for morphological changes with serial phase-contrast microscopy. Immunohistochemistry (3F8, NF-1, TRK-A) of cultured cells was used to evaluate differentiation. Glucocorticoid receptor levels was assessed using immunoblotting. Results: Dexamethasone decreased the rate of cellular proliferation in both standard and charcoal-depleted conditions. Flow cytometry showed a G1 accumulation. Increased expression of the differentiation-associated antigens was found in cells cultured in charcoal- depleted media, and a further augmentation was seen with the addition of dexamethasone. In standard media, dexamethasone had no detectable effect on the expression of these antigens. Glucocorticoid receptor expression was found to be comparable in all cell lines. Conclusions: Human neuroblastoma cells are sensitive to the differentiating effects of dexamethasone in an environment of charcoal-depleted serum. This phenomenon may be caused by the existence of growth and mitogenic factors in serum that are inhibiting differentiation. Copyright (C) 2000 by W.B. Saunders Company.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-472
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


  • Charcoal-depleted serum
  • Differentiation
  • Glucocorticoid
  • Neuroblastoma


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