Cultured human breast cancer cells lose selectivity in direct intercellular communication


VARIOUS small molecules, up to 1,600 molecular weight1, can pass directly between certain animal cells in contact, probably through gap junctions2,3. Such communication may partly mediate growth control in multicellular organisms and cultured cells, so that disturbances in the normal pattern of communication could be related to malignant growth4,5. The 3H-nucleotide transfer method6, based on metabolic cooperation7 has shown that communication is not always an all-or-none phenomenon, but may be selective8,9. For example, human mammary epithelial cells from benign tumours or milk do not communicate with human breast fibroblasts (HumF), although either type can communicate well with homologous cells. We have examined the communication between cancer cells from several human breast cancer sources and found that, unlike normal mammary epithelium, they do not show selectivity in communication. The cancer cells fall into one or other of the two functional groups we have defined as non-selective communicators (communicate with all cells capable of communication) or non-communicators (unable to communicate with homologous or heterologous cells) suggesting that the change to malignancy involves some change in the pattern of cell communication.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Simpson, I., Rose, B. & Loewenstein, W. R. Science 195, 294 (1977).

  2. 2

    Gilula, N. B., Reeves, O. R. & Steinbach, A. Nature 235, 262 (1972).

  3. 3

    Azarnia, R., Larsen, W. J. & Loewenstein, W. R. Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 71, 880 (1974).

  4. 4

    Loewenstein, W. R. & Kanno, Y. J. Cell Biol. 22, 565 (1964).

  5. 5

    Borek, C., Higashino, S. & Loewenstein, W. R. J. membr. Biol. 1, 274 (1969).

  6. 6

    Pitts, J. D. & Simms, J. W. Expl Cell Res. 104, 153 (1977).

  7. 7

    Subak-Sharpe, J., Burk, R. R. & Pitts, J. D. J. cell. Sci. 4, 353 (1969).

  8. 8

    Fentiman, I. S., Taylor-Papadimitriou, J. & Stoker, M. Nature 264, 760 (1976).

  9. 9

    Pitts, J. D. & Burk, R. R. Nature 264, 762 (1976).

  10. 10

    Lasfargues, E. Y. & Ozzello, L. J. natn. Cancer Inst. 21, 1131 (1958).

  11. 11

    Hallowes, R. C., Millis, R., Stoker, M. & Taylor-Papadimitriou, J. clin. Oncol. 3, 81 (1977).

  12. 13

    Rose, H. N. & McGrath, C. M. Science 190, 673 (1975).

  13. 14

    Young, R. K., Cailleau, R. M., Mackay, B. & Reeves, W. J. In vitro 9, 239 (1974).

  14. 15

    Sheridan, J. D. J. Cell Biol. 45, 91 (1970).

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

FENTIMAN, I., TAYLOR-PAPADIMITRIOU, J. Cultured human breast cancer cells lose selectivity in direct intercellular communication. Nature 269, 156–158 (1977).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.