To determine if asbestos exposure could contribute to mesothelial cell carcinogenesis by selection and/or expansion of an initiated cell population, we compared normal human pleural mesothelial cells to either human mesothelioma cell lines or mesothelial cells transfected with cancer-related genes for sensitivity to amosite fibers in vitro. Neither normal nor mesothelioma cells were directly stimulated to replicate or increase DNA synthesis by any of the asbestos exposure conditions tested. The potential selective effect of asbestos exposure was demonstrated by a differential sensitivity of normal mesothelial cells and mesothelioma cells to amosite: for example, up to 20-fold higher concentrations of amosite fibers were required to inhibit replication of mesothelioma cell lines than normal mesothelial cells. In addition, a significant resistance (4-fold) to amosite toxicity was observed for SV40 immortalized mesothelial cell lines that had previously been selected in vitro for resistance to asbestos. SV40 immortalized cells that have become tumorigenic after transfection with either Ha-ras or PDGF A-chain genes were not significantly more resistant to the cytotoxic effects of amosite than primary normal cells, and the primary cells were equally sensitive to amosite as mesothelial cells that were only immortalized by SV40. The sensitivity of normal mesothelial cells to asbestos does not appear to be simply a result of general fragility of the mesothelial cells, since similar levels of hydrogen peroxide and silica were cytotoxic for normal mesothelial cells and mesothelioma cell lines. Because mesothelioma cells have a greater resistance to asbestos cytotoxkity than normal mesothelial cells, we hypothesize that a differential resistance to cell killing by asbestos fibers in vitro may result in a selective expansion of an initiated or transformed cell population and thus contribute to the carcinogenesis process. Since tumorigenicity and asbestos resistance occur independently of one another in genetically altered mesothelial cell lines, genotypic and phenotypic alterations that lead to tumorigenic conversion may not be the same changes that provide resistance to cell killing by asbestos.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research