Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer mortality, however, efficient methods to culture, expand and transform lung epithelial (LE) cells have not been established. In the present study, an efficient ex vivo method was applied to recapitulate lung carcinogenesis using mouse LE cells. A Matrigel-assisted three-dimensional culture was used to isolate and selectively expand LE cells from mouse lungs. Purified LE cells were passaged and expanded for at least 2 to 3 months while maintaining epidermal growth factor-dependence. LE cells were also easily transformed by genetic manipulations using retroviral vectors. A SV40 large-T antigen, suppressing p53 and pRB, plus an activated oncogene, such as KrasG12V or EGFRex19del, were required to transform LE cells. Transformed cells formed tumors resembling non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in allograft models and exhibited strong oncogene addiction. This experimental system provided a unique model system to study lung tumorigenesis and develop novel therapeutics against NSCLC.
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