To investigate the role of oncogenes in the development of metastatic ability by prostatic cancer, the viral-Harvey-ras (v-H-ras) oncogene was introduced into the Dunning rat prostate adenocarcinoma cell line, AT2.1 by means of DNA transfection. The AT2.1 cell line is a cloned cell line that is anaplastic, rapidly growing, and has low metastatic potential; after subcutaneous (s.c.) inoculation in syngeneic rats, fewer than 10% of inoculated rats develop distant metastases. Calcium phosphate mediated DNA transfections of AT2.1 cells were performed with the v-H-ras oncogene or with control DNA. The in vitro growth rate of cloned transfectants, which contain and express the v-H-ras oncogene is similar to that of untransfected AT2.1 cells and of control transfectants. After s.c. inoculation in syngeneic rats, all transfectants produced rapidly growing tumors with similar growth rates. While control transfectants had low metastatic ability comparable to untransfected AT2.1 cells, the H-ras expressing transfectants metastasized in over 80% of inoculated rats. While the mechanism by which nonmetastatic Dunning tumor sublines spontaneously develop high metastatic ability in vivo during serial s.c. passage has not been addressed in the present studies, these studies do demonstrate that expression of an activated H-ras oncogene can reproducibly convert a tumorigenic nonmetastatic prostatic cell line to a highly metastatic state.
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