Cytogenetic studies of the human breast cancer cell line MCF-7 and the sublines derived from it demonstrated extensive aneuploidy with both numerical and structural abnormalities and a wide range of heteroploidy. Detailed G-banding analyses showed that loss of marker chromosomes was a rare event, while formation of additional structural abnormalities was very common in these long-term cultures. All chromosomes were involved in these abnormalities. Loss of a morphologically normal X-chromosome may be related to the loss of estrogen receptors in these cell lines. With the exception of one subline, all cell lines had a short homogeneously staining region (HSR) on chromosome 7. Although the parent MCF-7 line had tetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase levels within the normal range, a lengthened HSR has been found in MCF-71ines that are resistant to methotrexate. This observation strongly favors the association of an increased level of tetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase with HSR. In conclusion, the inherent genetic instability in this group of related cell lines may explain the heterogeneity found in this tumor. Continuous chromosomal rearrangements and numerical changes may reflect an ongoing process of selection and adaptation in these cell lines established from a breast carcinoma and may be characteristic of the aggressiveness of this neoplasm.
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