Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

In vitro and in vivo characterization of highly purified Human Mesothelioma derived cells

Alice Melotti1, Antonio Daga2, Daniela Marubbi12, Annalisa Zunino2, Luciano Mutti3 and Giorgio Corte12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Oncology, Biology and Genetics, University of Genova, Genova, Italy

2 Department of Translational Oncology, National Institute for Cancer Research, Genova, Italy

3 Department of Medicine, Local Health Unit 11, Piemonte, Italy

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:54  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-54

Published: 22 February 2010



Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a rare disease known to be resistant to conventional therapies. A better understanding of mesothelioma biology may provide the rationale for new therapeutic strategies. In this regard, tumor cell lines development has been an important tool to study the biological properties of many tumors. However all the cell lines established so far were grown in medium containing at least 10% serum, and it has been shown that primary cell lines cultured under these conditions lose their ability to differentiate, acquire gene expression profiles that differ from that of tissue specific stem cells or the primary tumor they derive from, and in some cases are neither clonogenic nor tumorigenic. Our work was aimed to establish from fresh human pleural mesothelioma samples cell cultures maintaining tumorigenic properties.


The primary cell cultures, obtained from four human pleural mesotheliomas, were expanded in vitro in a low serum proliferation-permissive medium and the expression of different markers as well as the tumorigenicity in immunodeficient mice was evaluated.


The established mesothelioma cell cultures are able to engraft, after pseudo orthotopic intraperitoneal transplantation, in immunodeficient mouse and maintain this ability to after serial transplantation. Our cell cultures were strongly positive for CD46, CD47, CD56 and CD63 and were also strongly positive for some markers never described before in mesothelioma cell lines, including CD55, CD90 and CD99. By real time PCR we found that our cell lines expressed high mRNA levels of typical mesothelioma markers as mesothelin (MSLN) and calretinin (CALB2), and of BMI-1, a stemness marker, and DKK1, a potent Wingless [WNT] inhibitor.


These cell cultures may provide a valuable in vitro and in vivo model to investigate mesothelioma biology. The identification of new mesothelioma markers may be useful for diagnosis and/or prognosis of this neoplasia as well as for isolation of mesothelioma tumor initiating cells.