Research Paper | Published:

Generation of Human Embryonic Kidney Cells with Extended In Vitro Life Span through Viral Oncogene Transfection

Bio/Technologyvolume 7pages939946 (1989) | Download Citation



Primary cultures of human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells exhibit an in vitro life span of approximately 15 to 20 generations. We report here that transfection of HEK cells with the early gene region of the SV40 DNA tumor virus results in a five-fold increase in cell life span. These cells with extended life span were morphologically similar to normal HEK cells, retained their attachment-dependence for growth and ceased growth at confluence. After 70 to 90 generations in vitro, the transfected cells entered a crisis period, marked by continued basal metabolism in the absence of cell division. Two human kidney cell lines of indefinite life span were isolated from clonal populations of these transfected cells in crisis. These “immortal” HEK cells also demonstrated relatively little evidence of oncogenic transformation, although their morphology and growth characteristics did differ somewhat from the primary HEK cells and the HEK cells with extended life span.

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    • Charles F. Goochee

    Present address: Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 94305-5025

  1. Charles F. Goochee: Corresponding author.


  1. Department of Chemical Engineering, University and Houston, Houston, Texas, 77204-4792

    • Steve Abcouwer
    •  & Polly S. Robinson
  2. Department of Pharmacology, University of Texas Medical School, P.O. Box 20708, Houston, Texas, 77225

    • Michael T. Crow


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