Dirk Weisensee, Albrecht Poth, Ewald Roemer, Lynda L. Conroy and Walter K. Schlage
In vitro cell transformation assays detect transformed cells that have acquired the distinct characteristics of malignant cells and thus model one stage of in vivo carcinogenesis. These assays have been proposed as surrogate models for predicting the non-genotoxic carcinogenic potential of chemicals. The Bhas 42 cell transformation assay, a short-term assay that uses v-Ha-ras-transfected Balb/c 3T3 cells, can detect the tumour promoter-like activities of chemicals, but has not previously been used with cigarette smoke. The particulate phase of cigarette smoke (total particulate matter [TPM]) is known to induce tumours in vivo in the mouse skin painting assay. Therefore, we investigated the ability of this Bhas cell assay to form morphologically transformed foci in vitro when repeatedly challenged with TPM from a standard research cigarette. TPM induced a dose-dependent increase in Type III foci, and a significant increase (up to 20-fold) in focus formation at moderately toxic concentrations between 5 and 60μg TPM/ml, with a peak at 20μg/ml. Three batches of TPM were tested in three independent experiments. Precision (repeatability and reproducibility) was calculated by using 0, 5, 10, and 20μg TPM/ml. Repeatability and reproducibility, expressed as the relative standard deviation obtained from the normalised slopes of the dose–response curves, were 17.2% and 19.6%, respectively; the slopes were 0.7402 ± 0.1247, 0.9347 ± 0.1316, and 0.8772 ± 0.1767 (increase factor*ml/mg TPM; mean ± SD); and the goodness of fit (r2) of the mean slopes, each derived from n = 6 repeats, was 0.9449, 0.8198, and 0.8344, respectively. This in vitro assay with Bhas 42 cells, which are regarded as already initiated in the two-stage paradigm of carcinogenesis (initiation and promotion), is able to detect cell transformation induced by cigarette smoke in a dose-dependent manner with a high sensitivity and good precision. Because this assay is fast and yields reliable results, it may be useful in product assessment, as well as for further investigation of the non-genotoxic carcinogenic activity of tobacco smoke-related test substances.