Continuous Cell Line

At any time during the culture of a cell strain, cells in the culture may transform, meaning that they are no longer subject to crisis and senescence. However, these cells can be passage indefinitely i.e. they will have an infinite lifespan. Immortal cell culture is called continuous cell line, to distinguish them from primary cultures and cell strains that have a definite lifespan.

Senescence:Normal cells usually divide only a limited number of times before losing their ability to proliferate, which is a genetically determined event.

Immortalization can occur spontaneously during the passage of a cell strain, or it can be induced by

  • treatment with chemical mutagens,
  • infection with tumorigenic viruses, or
  • transfection with oncogenes.

In addition, cells cultured from tumor tissue frequently establish immortal cell lines in culture. Also known as heteroploid cultures, continuous cell lines are termed so as they can be serially cultivated indefinitely. The standard continuous cell lines have been derived from human cancer cells such as HeLa (derived from cervical cancer of a lady, HeLa by name), Hep2, and KB cells.

Continuous cell lines are maintained either by the serial subculture or by storing in deep freeze at -70°C.

Some of the distinguishing properties of Continuous Cell Line are:

  1. Cells of a single type capable of infinite growth In Vitro.
  2. Grow faster and their chromosomes are haploid
  3. Derived from immortalized cell lines (cancer cells) often of epithelial origin
  4. Are not used for the preparation of viral vaccines. This is because vaccines prepared in cancer cells are considered unsafe for human use.

Uses of Continuous Cell line

Most of the cell cultures used in the diagnostic laboratories are continuous cell lines. The specimen is introduced into the cell culture medium and the presence of viruses is detected by observing the cells for a cytopathic effect (CPE). Cell culture techniques are specialized and labor-intensive and some viruses either cause no cytopathic effects or cause a CPE that takes a week or more to evolve.

Name of the virusCell lines used
Influenza virusPrimary monkey kidney (PMK) cell culture
Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cell line
Herpes simplex virus (HSV)Primary human embryonic cell or human diploid cell lines eg. MRC-5
Measles virusPrimary human fetal kidney cell
Rabies virusMurine lymphoblastoma cell
Dengue virusIntrathoracic or intracerebral inoculation of Toxorhynchites mosquito. Mosquito cell lines eg. Ap-61, TRA 248, etc.
HIVPhytohemagglutinin stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cell

Difference between Primary and Continuous Cell Culture

PropertiesPrimary Cell CultureContinuous Cell Culture
SourceMixture of cells freshly derived from the tissue of origin e.g., laboratory animal, human biopsy sample, etc.Mixture of cells derived from human and animal tumors.
Life spanCell line derived from primary culture has a limited lifespan.  They usually divide only a limited number of times before losing their ability to proliferate ( a genetically determined event known as senescence)Can be sub-cultured indefinitely.
Morphological changeAll the cells retain their normal karyotypeCells will not display the same karyotype.

References and Further Reading

  1. Gröner, A. (2018). Pathogen safety. Biopharmaceutical Processing, 1075–1104.
  2. Součková, K., Jasík, M., Sovadinová, I., Sember, A., Sychrová, E., Konieczna, A., Bystrý, V., Dyková, I., Blažek, R., Lukšíková, K., Pavlica, T., Jankásek, M., Altmanová, M., Žák, J., Zbončáková, A., Reichard, M., & Slabý, O. (2023). From fish to cells: Establishment of continuous cell lines from embryos of annual killifish Nothobranchius furzeri and N. kadleci. Aquatic toxicology (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 259, 106517.
  3. Pettengill, O. S., Sorenson, G. D., Wurster-Hill, D. H., Curphey, T. J., Noll, W. W., Cate, C. C., & Maurer, L. H. (1980). Isolation and growth characteristics of continuous cell lines from small-cell carcinoma of the lung. Cancer, 45(5), 906–918.

Acharya Tankeshwar

Hello, thank you for visiting my blog. I am Tankeshwar Acharya. Blogging is my passion. As an asst. professor, I am teaching microbiology and immunology to medical and nursing students at PAHS, Nepal. I have been working as a microbiologist at Patan hospital for more than 10 years.

3 thoughts on “Continuous Cell Line

  1. Sir give me brief notes about application of animal cell culture for the study of gene expression

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