ECV304 cells reported as originating from human umbilical vein endothelial cells by spontaneous transformation have been used as a model cell line for endothelia over the last decade. Recently, deoxyribonucleic acid fingerprinting revealed an identical genotype for ECV304 and T24 cells (urinary bladder carcinoma cell line). In order to resolve the apparent discrepancy between the identical genotype and the fact that ECV304 cells phenotypically show important endothelial characteristics, a comparative study was performed. Immortalized porcine brain microvascular endothelial cells/C1–2, and Madin Darby canine kidney cells were included as typical endothelial and epithelial cells, respectively. Various methods, such as confocal laser scanning microscopy, Western blot, and protein activity tests, were used to study the cell lines. ECV304 and T24 cells differ in criteria, such as growth behavior, cytoarchitecture, tight junction arrangement, transmembrane electrical resistance, and activity of γ-glutamyltransferase. Several endothelial markers (von Willebrand factor, uptake of low-density lipoprotein, vimentin) could clearly be identified in ECV304, but not in T24 cells. Desmoglein and cytokeratin, both known as epithelial markers, were found in ECV304 as well as in T24 cells. However, differences were found for the two cell lines with respect to the type of cytokeratin: in ECV304 cells mainly cytokeratin 18 (45 kDa) is found, whereas in T24 cells cytokeratin 8 (52 kDa) is predominant. As we could demonstrate, the ECV304 cell line exposes many endothelial features which, in view of the scarcity of suitable endothelial cell lines, still make it an attractive in vitro model for endothelia.
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Vol. 37 • No. 8