R Pfragner, A Behmel, DP Smith, BA Ponder, G Wirnsberger, I Rinner, S Porta, T Henn, B Niederle
Pheochromocytomas are rare tumours, with an incidence of 1-2 per million which arise from chromaffin cells of the adrenal medulla. They occur sporadically or as part of dominantly inherited cancer syndromes like multiple endocrine neoplasia 2 (MEN2A and 2B) and others. Continuous cell lines, not available so far, are essential tools for studies in these tumours. A continuous cell line (KNA) was established from a sporadic pheochromocytoma of the right adrenal gland of a 73-year-old woman. The KNA cells grow as suspensions of spheroids and show the morphological and immunocytochemical characteristics of neuronal chromaffin cells, such as neuroendocrine granules, and positive reactions to chromogranin- and related peptide-, neuron specific enolase and vasoactive intestinal peptide antibodies. Neurite-like processes are formed after addition of nerve growth factor. Chromosomal analyses revealed a diploid (46,XX,n = 50) to hypodiploid (43-45,XX,n = 15) karyotype. In hypodiploid metaphases most frequently #19, #17, #21 and #22 were missing. Chromosome arms 1p and 4q showed apparently consistent interstitial deletions: 6q, 8q, 13q and 22q showed clonal interstitial deletions. The cell line shows a heterozygous sequence variant TGC (cysteine) to TGG (tryptophan) in codon 611 in exon 10 of the RET proto-oncogene. So far, PC-12, a rat adrenal pheochromocytoma, has been the only continuous pheochromocytoma cell line available. KNA represents the first report on a human continuous pheochromocytoma cell line, the first report of structural chromosome aberrations in pheochromocytomas and the first report of a RET mutation TGC to TGG in exon 10 of the RET proto-oncogene in a sporadic pheochromocytoma.