Check your cultures! A list of cross-contaminated or misidentified cell lines

CellBank Australia - Children's Medical Research Institute, Westmead, NSW, Australia.
International Journal of Cancer (Impact Factor: 5.09). 07/2010; 127(1):1-8. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.25242
Source: PubMed


Continuous cell lines consist of cultured cells derived from a specific donor and tissue of origin that have acquired the ability to proliferate indefinitely. These cell lines are well-recognized models for the study of health and disease, particularly for cancer. However, there are cautions to be aware of when using continuous cell lines, including the possibility of contamination, in which a foreign cell line or microorganism is introduced without the handler's knowledge. Cross-contamination, in which the contaminant is another cell line, was first recognized in the 1950s but, disturbingly, remains a serious issue today. Many cell lines become cross-contaminated early, so that subsequent experimental work has been performed only on the contaminant, masquerading under a different name. What can be done in response-how can a researcher know if their own cell lines are cross-contaminated? Two practical responses are suggested here. First, it is important to check the literature, looking for previous work on cross-contamination. Some reports may be difficult to find and to make these more accessible, we have compiled a list of known cross-contaminated cell lines. The list currently contains 360 cell lines, drawn from 68 references. Most contaminants arise within the same species, with HeLa still the most frequently encountered (29%, 106/360) among human cell lines, but interspecies contaminants account for a small but substantial minority of cases (9%, 33/360). Second, even if there are no previous publications on cross-contamination for that cell line, it is essential to check the sample itself by performing authentication testing.

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Available from: John R Masters, Sep 22, 2014
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    • "This is true even under the most rigorous operational standards such as those employed in the maintenance of mammalian tissue culture. For example , 360 known cross-contaminated or misidentified human cell lines have been identified and many of these have been used for published research [18]. This further underscores the importance of bioinformatics data for rapid identification and correction of such errors. "
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    • "All these initiatives involve cultures grown in serum, which do not demonstrate the phenotypic properties of the tumor of origin. Furthermore, the origin of several of the cell lines has been questioned; in several instances STR profiling has revealed cross contamination or misidentification of established cell lines, including several GBM lines (Capes-Davis et al., 2010). Finally, for most of the publically available cell lines associated clinical data are lacking, which further reduces their value. "
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    • "Additionally, many laboratories (including ours) have used these cells in research and published many papers in international journals. However, it has been reported that the HSG cells used in this study were contaminated with HeLa cells [40, 41]. It will be necessary to consider the alternative cell line used for the particle beam facility experiments in the future. "
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