We undertook to extend the in vitro lifespan of epithelial cell cultures useful for the study of the cellular defect underlying cystic fibrosis (CF). Primary cultures from sweat glands of four CF and four non-CF and from nasal polyps of one non-CF and two CF individuals were transformed using a chimaeric virus, Ad5/SV40 1613 ori-. The extended lifespans ranged from 20 to more than 250 population doublings beyond that of the primary cultures. Despite some degree of aneuploidy (as assayed by total cellular DNA content) all samples tested retained at least one copy of the region of chromosome 7 containing the CF gene (as assayed by probing with flanking DNA markers). Epithelial characteristics, including an epithelioid morphology, tight junctions and desmosomes, apical microvilli, keratin networks, and dome formation were positive in the majority of cells examined, although variably expressed. All cells tested demonstrated outwardly rectifying chloride channels by patch clamp, with some from non-CF cells responsive to the catalytic subunit of cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase. The cells were used for DNA transfection assays with selectable marker genes in appropriate vectors, in order to develop methodology for assaying the function of the CF gene product and the effects of mutations.

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