Open Access Research article

Comprehensive SNP array study of frequently used neuroblastoma cell lines; copy neutral loss of heterozygosity is common in the cell lines but uncommon in primary tumors

Hanna Kryh1, Helena Carén1, Jennie Erichsen1, Rose-Marie Sjöberg1, Jonas Abrahamsson2, Per Kogner3 and Tommy Martinsson1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Genetics, The Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, SE-41345 Gothenburg, Sweden

2 Department of Pediatrics, The Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, SE-41685 Gothenburg, Sweden

3 Childhood Cancer Research Unit, Department of Woman and Child Health, Karolinska Institute, Karolinska Hospital, SE-17176 Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:443  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-443

Published: 7 September 2011



Copy neutral loss of heterozygosity (CN-LOH) refers to a special case of LOH occurring without any resulting loss in copy number. These alterations is sometimes seen in tumors as a way to inactivate a tumor suppressor gene and have been found to be important in several types of cancer.


We have used high density single nucleotide polymorphism arrays in order to investigate the frequency and distribution of CN-LOH and other allelic imbalances in neuroblastoma (NB) tumors and cell lines. Our results show that the frequency of these near-CN-LOH events is significantly higher in the cell lines compared to the primary tumors and that the types of CN-LOH differ between the groups. We also show that the low-risk neuroblastomas that are generally considered to have a "triploid karyotype" often present with a complex numerical karyotype (no segmental changes) with 2-5 copies of each chromosome. Furthermore a comparison has been made between the three related cell lines SK-N-SH, SH-EP and SH-SY5Y with respect to overall genetic aberrations, and several aberrations unique to each of the cell lines has been found.


We have shown that the NB tumors analyzed contain several interesting allelic imbalances that would either go unnoticed or be misinterpreted using other genome-wide techniques. These findings indicate that the genetics underlying NB might be even more complex than previously known and that SNP arrays are important analysis tools. We have also showed that these near-CN-LOH events are more frequently seen in NB cell lines compared to NB tumors and that a set of highly related cell lines have continued to evolve secondary to the subcloning event. Taken together our analysis highlights that cell lines in many cases differ substantially from the primary tumors they are thought to represent, and that caution should be taken when drawing conclusions from cell line-based studies.