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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Modelling of Normal and Premalignant Oral Tissue by using the Immortalised Cell Line, SVpgC2a: A Review of the Value of the Model

Claudia A. Staab, Martin Vondracek, Hipolito Custodio, Katarina Johansson, Jan Anders Nilsson, Peter Morgan, Jan-Olov Höög, Ian Cotgreave and Roland C. Grafström

Normal oral keratinocytes (NOKs), and a Simian virus 40 T-antigen-immortalised oral keratinocyte line termed SVpgC2a, were cultured in an effort to model the human oral epithelium in vitro, including normal and dysplastic tissue. Monolayer and organotypic cultures of NOKs and SVpgC2a were successfully established in a standardised serum-free medium with high levels of amino acids, by using regular tissue culture plastic for monolayers and collagen gels containing oral fibroblasts as the base for generating tissue equivalents. NOKs express many characteristics of normal tissue, including those associated with terminal squamous differentiation. After > 150 passages, SVpgC2a cells retained an immortal, nontumourigenic phenotype that, relative to NOKs, was associated with aberrant morphology, enhanced proliferation, deficiency in terminal differentiation, proneness to apoptosis, and variably altered expression of structural epithelial markers. Transcript and protein profiling, as well as activity assays, demonstrated the expression of multiple xenobiotic-metabolising enzymes in SVpgC2a cells, some of which were higher in comparison to NOKs. A generally preserved, or even activated, ability for xenobiotic metabolism in longterm cultures of SVpgC2a cells indicated that this cell line could be useful in safety testing protocols — for example, in the development of consumer products in the oral health care field. However, SVpgC2a cells displayed some features reminiscent of a severe oral dysplasia, implying that this cell line could also to some extent serve as a model of a premalignant oral epithelium.