Generation and initial characterization of conditionally immortalized chromaffin cells

Mary J. Eaton, Beata R. Frydel, Tomas L. Lopez, Xing T. Nie, Jian Huang, John McKillop, Jacqueline Sagen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Adrenal chromaffin cells have been successfully used to attenuate chronic pain when transplanted near the spinal cord, but primary cells are neither homogeneous nor practical for routine use in human therapy. Conditional immortalization with the temperature-sensitive allele of the large T antigen (tsTag) and creation of stable chromaffin cell lines would advance our understanding of both the use and limits of cell lines that contain this immortalization gene for such therapies. Cultures of embryonic day 17 rat adrenal and neonatal bovine adrenal cells were immortalized with the temperature-sensitive allele of SV40 tsTag and chromaffin cell lines established. The rat chromaffin line, RAD5.2, and the bovine chromaffin cell line, BADA.20, both expressed immunoreactivities (ir) for all the catecholamine enzymes: tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the first enzyme in the synthetic pathway for catecholamines, dopa-β-hydroxylase (DβH), and phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase (PNMT). At permissive temperature (33°C), these chromaffin cells are proliferative, have a typical rounded chromaffinlike morphology, and contain detectable TH-, DβH-, and PNMT-ir. At nonpermissive temperature (39°C), these cells stop proliferating, decrease Tag expression, and change the expression of TH-, DβH-, and PNMT-ir in vitro, suggesting increased differentiation at nonpermissive temperature. The chromaffin cell lines also express immunoreactivity for the opioid met-enkephalin (ENK) at permissive and nonpermissive temperatures. The expression of TH-ir in the bovine chromaffin cells is upregulated by the addition of dexamethasone (DEX) or forskolin during differentiation; TH-ir is not affected by the addition of DEX or forskolin in the rat chromaffin cells. The addition of forskolin during differentiation upregulates the expression of DβH-ir in the rat chromaffin cells. PNMT-ir is not affected by differentiation or agents in either cell line. However, catecholamine synthesis was not detectable by high-performance liquid chromatography, suggesting incomplete differentiation under current conditions, or influence by continued low levels of Tag expression. Both cell lines have been carried over many passages in vitro for more than 3 years and were repeatedly frozen and thawed. These data describe an initial step in the conditional immortalization of chromaffin cells that can maintain the phenotype of primary chromaffin cells in vitro over long periods. The use of such chromaffin cell lines that are able to deliver neuroactive molecules offers a novel approach to pain management. (C) 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-57
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of cellular biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


  • Catecholamine
  • Cell lines
  • SV40 tsTag
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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