Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Comprehensive characterization of neuroblastoma cell line subtypes reveals bilineage potential similar to neural crest stem cells

Sandra Acosta, Cinzia Lavarino, Raquel Paris, Idoia Garcia, Carmen de Torres, Eva Rodríguez, Helena Beleta and Jaume Mora*

Author Affiliations

Developmental tumor biology laboratory, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu. Passeig Sant Joan de Déu, 2, 08950 Esplugues de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain

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BMC Developmental Biology 2009, 9:12  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-9-12

Published: 12 February 2009



Neuroblastic tumors (NBT) derive from neural crest stem cells (NCSC). Histologically, NBT are composed by neuroblasts and Schwannian cells. In culture, neuroblastic (N-), substrate-adherent (S-) and intermediate phenotype (I-) cell subtypes arise spontaneously.


Here, neuroblastoma (NB) cell line subtypes were characterized according to embryonic peripheral nervous system development markers (GAP43, Phox2b, Sox10, c-kit, GD2, NF68, vimentin, S100β, calcyclin and ABCG2), morphological features, gene expression and differentiation potential. I-type cells were investigated as a bipotential (neuronal and glial) differentiation stage.


Positive immunostaining of NCSC (GAP43, c-kit, NF68, vimentin and Phox2b) and undifferentiated cell (ABCG2) markers was observed in all NB subtypes. N- and I-type cells displayed cytoplasmic membrane GD2 staining, while nuclear calcyclin was restricted to S-type. N- and I-type cells showed similar phenotype and immunoreactivity pattern. Differential gene expression was associated with each cell subtype. N- and I-type cells displayed similar differentiation capacity towards neuronal and glial lineage fates. S-type cells, upon induction, did not show a neuronal-like phenotype, despite gene expression changes.


Results suggest that N- and I-type NB cell subtypes represent an immature bilineage stage, able to progress towards neuronal and glial fates upon induction of differentiation. S-type cells appear irreversibly committed to a glial lineage fate.