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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Contributions of differential p53 expression in the spontaneous immortalization of a chicken embryo fibroblast cell line

Shelly A Christman1, Byung-Whi Kong1, Megan M Landry1, Hyunggee Kim2 and Douglas N Foster1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Animal Science, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA

2 Division of Biosciences and Technology, Korea University, Seoul, 136–701, Korea

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Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2006, 7:27  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-7-27

Published: 30 June 2006



The present study was carried out to determine whether the p53 pathway played a role in the spontaneous immortalization of the SC-2 chicken embryo fibroblast (CEF) cell line that has been in continuous culture for over three years.


The SC-2 cell line emerged from an extended crisis period with a considerably slower growth rate than primary CEF cells. The phenotype of the SC-2 cells changed dramatically at about passage 80, appearing smaller than at earlier passages (e.g., passage 43) and possessing a small, compact morphology. This morphological change coincided with an increase in growth rate. Passage 43 SC-2 cells expressed undetectable levels of p53 mRNA, but by passage 95, the levels were elevated compared to primary passage 6 CEF cells and similar to levels in senescent CEF cells. However, the high level of p53 mRNA detected in passage 95 SC-2 cells did not correlate to functional protein activity. The expression levels of the p53-regulated p21WAF1 gene were significantly decreased in all SC-2 passages that were analyzed. Examination of the Rb pathway revealed that E2F-1 and p15INK4b expression fluctuated with increasing passages, with levels higher in passage 95 SC-2 cells compared to primary passage 6 CEF cells.


The present study suggests that altered expression of genes involved in the p53 and Rb pathways, specifically, p53 and p21WAF1, may have contributed to the immortalization of the SC-2 CEF cell line.