Immortalized cell lines are widely used in genetic and epigenetic studies, from exploration of basic molecular pathways to evaluation of disease-specific cellular properties. They are also used in biotechnology, e.g., in drug toxicity tests and vaccine production. Cellular and genetic uniformity is the main feature of immortalized cell lines and it has been particularly advantageous in functional genomic research, which has in recent years been expanded to include epigenetic mechanisms of gene expression regulation. Using the MS-HRM technique, we demonstrated heterogeneity in locus-specific methylation patterns in different cell cultures of four human cell lines: HEK293, HEK293T, LCL and DU145. Our results show that some human immortalized cell lines consist of cells that differ in the methylation status of specific loci, i.e., that they are epigenetically heterogeneous. We show that even two cultures of the same cell line obtained from different laboratories can differ in the methylation status of the specific loci. The results indicated that epigenetic uniformity of the cell lines cannot be assumed in experiments which utilize cell cultures and that the methylation status of the specific loci in the immortalized cell lines should be re-characterized and carefully profiled before epigenetic studies are performed.
2015. Vol. 560, no 2