Continuous cell lines are widely used in cell biology and serve as model systems in basic and applied research. Fundamental requirements for the use of cell lines are a well-identified origin and the exclusion of cross-contamination by prokaryotic or eukaryotic cells. Because the cross-contamination of one cell line with another cell line may occur in a concealed manner, special emphasis must be taken to (1) prevent such an “accident” and (2) monitor regularly the identity of the cell line(s) in use. Apart from human cell lines, mouse-, rat-, and hamster-derived cell lines are used in basic cell culture and biotechnology. We established a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay to detect and confirm the species origin for these species and to detect interspecies cross-contamination. Our PCR method is based on oligonucleotide primers annealing to specific sequences in the β-globin gene, which were designed to amplify one deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) segment only per analyzed sample. We confirmed the species identity of 82 cell lines as human, mouse, rat, and Syrian hamster by β-globin PCR. The DNAs from eight additional cell lines of less frequently used species were not amplified with the primers chosen. Cross-contamination of 5–10% of either mouse or rat DNA was detectable. One species-specific primer pair was sufficient for confirmation of the expected species, and for identification of an unknown cell line the combination of two or more primer pairs is suggested. Our PCR assay represents a powerful, fast, easy, robust, and inexpensive method for speciation and does not need any elaborate sequencing or computer-based analysis system.
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Vol. 39 • No. 10