In vitro studies were carried out to induce viral transformation of vascular smooth muscle cells. Cultured rabbit arterial smooth muscle cells were infected with simian virus 40 (SV 40), and transformed cultures were produced that exhibit altered morphology, increased growth rate and plating efficiency, growth on semi-solid substrate, and chromosomal abnormalities. Nuclear SV 40 T-antigen was detected in all cells of these cultures. Muscle-specific actin was identified by a specific monoclonal antibody suggesting retention of smooth muscle cell characteristics by the transformed cells. Significant cytoplasmic lipid accumulation occurred in transformed cells incubated with β-very low density lipoprotein, as revealed both by chemical analyses and Nile Red lipid staining of the cultures. The transformed smooth muscle cells grow permanently in cell culture. Our investigations show that arterial smooth muscle cells transformed with SV 40 virus exhibit altered phenotypic properties distinct from that of normal arterial smooth muscle cells.
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