Variant cell lines (LC1, LC2) obtained by growth of mouse L cells (L) in cytostimulatory and cytotoxic doses, respectively, of rabbit anti-L cell antiserum (AL) were found previously to be altered in many ways relative to the parent cell line. A major change was the reduction of those surface membrane antigens that AL recognizes. These cell variants have now been found to have increased membrane sialic acid relative to L. Treatment of intact variant cells with neuraminidase (50 units/ml, 37°C, 1 hr) greatly restored the susceptibility of LC1 to lysis with AL. In the presence of 1/100 dilution of AL and 5% complement the viability indices (1.00 = no cell kill) of untreated and neuraminidase-treated cells were respectively: L 0.10 and 0.03 and LC1 0.91 and 0.40. Neuraminidase-treated LC2 cells retained their resistance to AL. Parallel studies with 125I-ALIgG showed increased binding to neuraminidase-treated LC1 relative to native LC1. These findings suggest that the altered membrane sialic acid content affects the immunologic behavior of this cell variant by masking the original cell surface antibody-binding sites. This represents a possible mechanism for tumors to escape immunologic control.
This work was supported in part by a Research Scholar Award from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to W.T.S., Grants CA-16391 and CA-08759 from the National Institutes of Health, and by Grant IM-54 from the American Cancer Society.